what exactly is in-house counsel?

(Please Ask Questions and Answer Questions)
onetimeonly95
Posts: 95
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2009 5:25 pm

what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby onetimeonly95 » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:09 pm

Probably a noobie question, but I would like to know anyway. Thanks in advance.

User avatar
sanpiero
Posts: 574
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 8:09 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby sanpiero » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:12 pm

Curious about this, too. Esp. interested in what a non-IP general counsel does, day-to-day, at a Fortune 100.

User avatar
dibs
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:15 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby dibs » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:24 pm

depends on what kind of house you're talking about. my house is a global oil&gas company. legal here oversees everything from land leases, mineral deposits, transnational purchasing and shipping, local engagement, drilling and completions, facilities and contsruction, all labour and material for every category, stakeholder relations, etc. etc. they are the be all and end all of contractual obligation, rights, remedies, indemnities, liabilities, so on and so forth, for every aspect of the company.
Last edited by dibs on Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:29 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
clintonius
Posts: 1239
Joined: Mon Feb 08, 2010 1:50 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby clintonius » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:25 pm

Not sure they'll have exactly what you're looking for, but I imagine there's something close here.

User avatar
romothesavior
Posts: 14772
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby romothesavior » Tue Apr 27, 2010 12:34 pm

In-house counsel is a legal department within a company that handles the litigation, contract oversight, etc. within that company. Most major corporations have an in-house counsel, and some can actually be quite large. An in-house counsel for a major Fortune 500 company in my hometown (I think it is actually Fortune 30) has hundreds of lawyers and operates much like a major firm.

Typically people like to go in-house because it is less hours and more of a stable workschedule. The lawyers at the company I was referring to usually work a 8-5 schedule, with some extra hours occassionaly for big projects or time-sensitive issues (one lawyer there said he works about 50 hours a week). It is still quite hectic and fast-paced, but it is definitely nowhere near what big firms have to do. This company also has no billable hour and a very "flat" management structure, so the rat race to make partner doesn't exist. Pay for in-house is less than big firms (typically), but it is still very good. (I think the company I'm referring to is like 90k to start). From what I've heard, most in-house counsels hire big law castoffs or people with experience, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this response is helpful and gives you some idea of what in-house is like. It obviously will vary quite a bit from company to company, but this is just a brief overview.

User avatar
sanpiero
Posts: 574
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 8:09 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby sanpiero » Tue Apr 27, 2010 1:12 pm

very helpful...thank you

User avatar
dibs
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:15 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby dibs » Wed Apr 28, 2010 2:58 pm

the base pay is less than a big law firm, probably, but the benefit package is going to make up for that 100x over.

stock options ftw. so much ftw.

User avatar
danquayle
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:12 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby danquayle » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:11 pm

romothesavior wrote:In-house counsel is a legal department within a company that handles the litigation, contract oversight, etc. within that company. Most major corporations have an in-house counsel, and some can actually be quite large. An in-house counsel for a major Fortune 500 company in my hometown (I think it is actually Fortune 30) has hundreds of lawyers and operates much like a major firm.

Typically people like to go in-house because it is less hours and more of a stable workschedule. The lawyers at the company I was referring to usually work a 8-5 schedule, with some extra hours occassionaly for big projects or time-sensitive issues (one lawyer there said he works about 50 hours a week). It is still quite hectic and fast-paced, but it is definitely nowhere near what big firms have to do. This company also has no billable hour and a very "flat" management structure, so the rat race to make partner doesn't exist. Pay for in-house is less than big firms (typically), but it is still very good. (I think the company I'm referring to is like 90k to start). From what I've heard, most in-house counsels hire big law castoffs or people with experience, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this response is helpful and gives you some idea of what in-house is like. It obviously will vary quite a bit from company to company, but this is just a brief overview.


Actually, in house counsel (even large ones), rarely, if ever, handle a company's litigation. That's one of the things they almost certainly outsource. They might do litigation support, but the actual litigation they'll rarely handle. (It's just too variable and specialized in nature to justify the cost of carrying litigation lawyers.) They also sometimes outsource M&A due diligence.

It really depends on the structure of the legal department, but a legal department can handle everything from things that are genuine legal issues such as statutory changes, the legal implications of a business maneuver, ability to do business in certain markets/industries etc; to things that are really business functions such as contract negotiation and contract support.

It's really hard to pinpoint what a legal department does because the answer is essentially "whatever your company asks you to do." You're going to get kicked your way a lot of questions/functions that aren't necessarily legal, but have a legal dimension. And those questions are going to be a reflection of the company you work for, eg. --> an IT company will demand more IP guidance from its legal department, while a health care network is going to require a lot of HIPAA guidance...

The hierarchy/culture of each legal department will also vary, but there is some truth to Romo's comments that its "flatter."
Last edited by danquayle on Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
romothesavior
Posts: 14772
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby romothesavior » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:13 pm

danquayle wrote:
romothesavior wrote:In-house counsel is a legal department within a company that handles the litigation, contract oversight, etc. within that company. Most major corporations have an in-house counsel, and some can actually be quite large. An in-house counsel for a major Fortune 500 company in my hometown (I think it is actually Fortune 30) has hundreds of lawyers and operates much like a major firm.

Typically people like to go in-house because it is less hours and more of a stable workschedule. The lawyers at the company I was referring to usually work a 8-5 schedule, with some extra hours occassionaly for big projects or time-sensitive issues (one lawyer there said he works about 50 hours a week). It is still quite hectic and fast-paced, but it is definitely nowhere near what big firms have to do. This company also has no billable hour and a very "flat" management structure, so the rat race to make partner doesn't exist. Pay for in-house is less than big firms (typically), but it is still very good. (I think the company I'm referring to is like 90k to start). From what I've heard, most in-house counsels hire big law castoffs or people with experience, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this response is helpful and gives you some idea of what in-house is like. It obviously will vary quite a bit from company to company, but this is just a brief overview.


Actually, in house counsel (even large ones), rarely, if ever, handle a company's litigation. That's one of the things they almost certainly outsource. They also sometimes outsource M&A due diligence.

It really depends on the structure of the legal department, but a legal department can handle everything from things that are genuine legal issues such as statutory changes, the legal implications of a business maneuver, ability to do business in certain markets/industries to, etc things that are really business functions such as contract negotiation and contract support.

It's really hard to pinpoint what a legal department does because the answer is essentially "whatever your company asks you to do." You're going to get kicked your way a lot of questions/functions that aren't necessarily legal, but have a legal dimension. And those questions are going to be a reflection of the company you work for, eg. --> an IT company will demand more IP guidance from its legal department, while a health care network is going to require a lot of HIPAA guidance...

The hierarchy/culture of each legal department will also vary, but there is some truth to Romo's comments that its "flatter."


I was really just speaking in general terms. I know the company that I did an "informational interview" with has a very big litigation team (but this is probably due to the fact that they are involved in more litigation than your average company... it is an insurance company, which probably just gave away the company I'm referring to). I was aware that many companies outsource for litigation, but I failed to mention it... so good catch.

Also, another function of some in-house lawyers that hasn't been mentioned is policy. They don't necessarily lobby and things like that, since other areas of the company deal with that, but they usually have a few lawyers who deal with policy issues that will affect the company's business.

User avatar
danquayle
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:12 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby danquayle » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:17 pm

romothesavior wrote:
danquayle wrote:
romothesavior wrote:In-house counsel is a legal department within a company that handles the litigation, contract oversight, etc. within that company. Most major corporations have an in-house counsel, and some can actually be quite large. An in-house counsel for a major Fortune 500 company in my hometown (I think it is actually Fortune 30) has hundreds of lawyers and operates much like a major firm.

Typically people like to go in-house because it is less hours and more of a stable workschedule. The lawyers at the company I was referring to usually work a 8-5 schedule, with some extra hours occassionaly for big projects or time-sensitive issues (one lawyer there said he works about 50 hours a week). It is still quite hectic and fast-paced, but it is definitely nowhere near what big firms have to do. This company also has no billable hour and a very "flat" management structure, so the rat race to make partner doesn't exist. Pay for in-house is less than big firms (typically), but it is still very good. (I think the company I'm referring to is like 90k to start). From what I've heard, most in-house counsels hire big law castoffs or people with experience, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this response is helpful and gives you some idea of what in-house is like. It obviously will vary quite a bit from company to company, but this is just a brief overview.


Actually, in house counsel (even large ones), rarely, if ever, handle a company's litigation. That's one of the things they almost certainly outsource. They also sometimes outsource M&A due diligence.

It really depends on the structure of the legal department, but a legal department can handle everything from things that are genuine legal issues such as statutory changes, the legal implications of a business maneuver, ability to do business in certain markets/industries to, etc things that are really business functions such as contract negotiation and contract support.

It's really hard to pinpoint what a legal department does because the answer is essentially "whatever your company asks you to do." You're going to get kicked your way a lot of questions/functions that aren't necessarily legal, but have a legal dimension. And those questions are going to be a reflection of the company you work for, eg. --> an IT company will demand more IP guidance from its legal department, while a health care network is going to require a lot of HIPAA guidance...

The hierarchy/culture of each legal department will also vary, but there is some truth to Romo's comments that its "flatter."


I was really just speaking in general terms. I know the company that I did an "informational interview" with has a very big litigation team (but this is probably due to the fact that they are involved in more litigation than your average company... it is an insurance company, which probably just gave away the company I'm referring to). I was aware that many companies outsource for litigation, but I failed to mention it... so good catch.


Yeah, that makes sense. What companies ask their legal departments to do are going to be very dependent on what the companies themselves do. I'd imagine insurance companies litigate at a higher and more consistent rate than most companies...

You in Illinois, Romo? :)

User avatar
romothesavior
Posts: 14772
Joined: Fri Jun 26, 2009 4:29 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby romothesavior » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:28 pm

danquayle wrote:
romothesavior wrote:
danquayle wrote:
romothesavior wrote:In-house counsel is a legal department within a company that handles the litigation, contract oversight, etc. within that company. Most major corporations have an in-house counsel, and some can actually be quite large. An in-house counsel for a major Fortune 500 company in my hometown (I think it is actually Fortune 30) has hundreds of lawyers and operates much like a major firm.

Typically people like to go in-house because it is less hours and more of a stable workschedule. The lawyers at the company I was referring to usually work a 8-5 schedule, with some extra hours occassionaly for big projects or time-sensitive issues (one lawyer there said he works about 50 hours a week). It is still quite hectic and fast-paced, but it is definitely nowhere near what big firms have to do. This company also has no billable hour and a very "flat" management structure, so the rat race to make partner doesn't exist. Pay for in-house is less than big firms (typically), but it is still very good. (I think the company I'm referring to is like 90k to start). From what I've heard, most in-house counsels hire big law castoffs or people with experience, but that isn't always the case.

Hope this response is helpful and gives you some idea of what in-house is like. It obviously will vary quite a bit from company to company, but this is just a brief overview.


Actually, in house counsel (even large ones), rarely, if ever, handle a company's litigation. That's one of the things they almost certainly outsource. They also sometimes outsource M&A due diligence.

It really depends on the structure of the legal department, but a legal department can handle everything from things that are genuine legal issues such as statutory changes, the legal implications of a business maneuver, ability to do business in certain markets/industries to, etc things that are really business functions such as contract negotiation and contract support.

It's really hard to pinpoint what a legal department does because the answer is essentially "whatever your company asks you to do." You're going to get kicked your way a lot of questions/functions that aren't necessarily legal, but have a legal dimension. And those questions are going to be a reflection of the company you work for, eg. --> an IT company will demand more IP guidance from its legal department, while a health care network is going to require a lot of HIPAA guidance...

The hierarchy/culture of each legal department will also vary, but there is some truth to Romo's comments that its "flatter."


I was really just speaking in general terms. I know the company that I did an "informational interview" with has a very big litigation team (but this is probably due to the fact that they are involved in more litigation than your average company... it is an insurance company, which probably just gave away the company I'm referring to). I was aware that many companies outsource for litigation, but I failed to mention it... so good catch.


Yeah, that makes sense. What companies ask their legal departments to do are going to be very dependent on what the companies themselves do. I'd imagine insurance companies litigate at a higher and more consistent rate than most companies...

You in Illinois, Romo? :)


Correctamundo.

User avatar
AngryAvocado
Posts: 776
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2009 11:22 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby AngryAvocado » Wed Apr 28, 2010 3:30 pm

A Fortune 100 in-house lawyer once told me that, basically, his entire department's job was just to
A) figure out what legal work needed to be done for a particular project/acquisition/contract/patent/whatever
B) outsource said legal work to specialty firms
C) oversee and ensure the company doesn't get completely ripped off for said legal work

Not sure if it's like that across the board, but he gave me the impression that this was fairly standard practice for in-house counsel (across that particular industry, at least). I also met with a woman whose job was to basically investigate upper level executives suspected/accused of anything from sexual harassment to selling company secrets, and then to handle it as discreetly as possible. I believe her job qualified more as a Human Resources position than "legal counsel," though, but I will say that she was reimbursed well for her services.

User avatar
danquayle
Posts: 1108
Joined: Tue Dec 09, 2008 2:12 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby danquayle » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:20 pm

AngryAvocado wrote:A Fortune 100 in-house lawyer once told me that, basically, his entire department's job was just to
A) figure out what legal work needed to be done for a particular project/acquisition/contract/patent/whatever
B) outsource said legal work to specialty firms
C) oversee and ensure the company doesn't get completely ripped off for said legal work

Not sure if it's like that across the board, but he gave me the impression that this was fairly standard practice for in-house counsel (across that particular industry, at least). I also met with a woman whose job was to basically investigate upper level executives suspected/accused of anything from sexual harassment to selling company secrets, and then to handle it as discreetly as possible. I believe her job qualified more as a Human Resources position than "legal counsel," though, but I will say that she was reimbursed well for her services.


This is accurate to the extent that the most important function of the legal department is to identify what needs to be done. I can tell you, however, that at least in my department, there is a major move away from outsourcing tasks to outside firms. The only one we're steadfast on outsourcing is litigation. This probably again depends on a lot of factors and in particular the size/depth of the legal department and the complexity of the issue.

One of the side effects of the breakdown of the traditional law firm system is that corporations are retain legal talent at much cheaper rates than before.

Kochel
Posts: 182
Joined: Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:36 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby Kochel » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:28 pm

I'm one of about a dozen in-house attorneys at a financial services company. In a regulated industry like ours, compliance comprises the great majority of what our legal department does, and we have specialist attorneys in mutual fund, broker-dealer, investment advisory, ERISA, and banking law. Mainly these specialists ensure that the main business lines and products function in accordance with applicable law. We also have litigators on staff (who do mostly support and oversight of outside counsel), as well as several dozen paralegals and compliance personnel. Of course, we also do routine corporate work like governance, employment, contract negotiation, etc.

Hours are excellent--no weekends, offices darkened by 6 or 6:30. Stress level is generally low. Pay is good, especially bonuses. Not like Biglaw partner pay, but definitely like Biglaw senior associate pay.

User avatar
MTal
Posts: 854
Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:47 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby MTal » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:31 pm

Something which 90 % of you can only dream of getting.

/ Thread

User avatar
flyingpanda
Posts: 824
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:32 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:38 pm

MTal wrote:Something which 90 % of you can only dream of getting.

/ Thread


MTal, be straight with me brah. Do I have a shot at this?

User avatar
Mr. Matlock
Posts: 1360
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2008 6:36 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby Mr. Matlock » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:42 pm

aznflyingpanda wrote:
MTal wrote:Something which 90 % of you can only dream of getting.

/ Thread


MTal, be straight with me brah. Do I have a shot at this?

I'm actually not certain this is THE MTal. 90% seems awfully optimistic for him.

User avatar
js87
Posts: 434
Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:42 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby js87 » Wed Apr 28, 2010 4:52 pm

I'm speaking from limited experience since my father is General Counsel for a relatively small company. This is at least what the position entails at his company. Feel free to PM me with specific questions.

In-House Counsel/General Counsel is the attorney for a company. The General Counsel is the head of the legal department, and usually a top level executive along with COO, CFO, etc. Some companies may have several attorneys working under the General Counsel, some companies only have one attorney (the General Counsel) and some may have a General Counsel and some paralegals. They review contracts, negotiate leases, maintain compliance, and coordinate (in a broad way) litigation. At least in his company, the vast majority of actual litigation is farmed out to outside counsel. The General Counsel coordinates the "big picture".

They also deal with day to day legal issues that arise in the company, and draft internal procedures with HR. However, the most significant job duty (for him at least) tends to be just advising the company on business decisions, with an emphasis on the legal considerations.

User avatar
dibs
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 2:15 pm

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby dibs » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:14 pm

MTal wrote:Something which 90 % of you can only dream of getting.

/ Thread


yay for supply management and being of the 10%!

User avatar
flyingpanda
Posts: 824
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:32 am

Re: what exactly is in-house counsel?

Postby flyingpanda » Wed Apr 28, 2010 5:18 pm

Kochel wrote:I'm one of about a dozen in-house attorneys at a financial services company. In a regulated industry like ours, compliance comprises the great majority of what our legal department does, and we have specialist attorneys in mutual fund, broker-dealer, investment advisory, ERISA, and banking law. Mainly these specialists ensure that the main business lines and products function in accordance with applicable law. We also have litigators on staff (who do mostly support and oversight of outside counsel), as well as several dozen paralegals and compliance personnel. Of course, we also do routine corporate work like governance, employment, contract negotiation, etc.

Hours are excellent--no weekends, offices darkened by 6 or 6:30. Stress level is generally low. Pay is good, especially bonuses. Not like Biglaw partner pay, but definitely like Biglaw senior associate pay.


Please PM me how you pulled this off, thnx




Return to “Law School FAQ”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests