How to move in-house?

(Discuss Advantages vs Disadvantages, Making the Switch From Private Practice to In-House, Compensation & Hours, Work-Life balance, In-House Reviews & Experiences)
Anonymous User
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How to move in-house?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Nov 09, 2019 6:02 pm

Sorry if this has been covered before (if so, please point me to any relevant threads), but I want to eventually get an in-house job with great lifestyle benefits (think 9-5 with no evening/weekend work and at least around $150K in compensation). I'm currently a second year restructuring associate at a V50 firm, and I know that it would be hard to get an in-house job directly from my current practice. So, I have a few questions:

(1) I get that I will probably have to switch practice groups. But to what? Corporate? Regulatory?
(2) How, in practice, does one go about switching practice groups? Do you just say "I want to do something else," or does one have to spin his or her experience as relevant to the new group? I would likely be switching firms so please take that into account as well.
(3) Does the practice area I choose matter in terms of constricting the location of my potential future in-house job? I'm not sure where I want to end up eventually, so I'd like to have as much flexibility as possible.
(4) Should I use a recruiter when switching practice groups?
(5) How long should I expect to work in my new group before realistically being able to get an in-house role?

Thanks.

Anonymous User
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Re: How to move in-house?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Nov 09, 2019 7:53 pm

I can only respond to (1) and (2). I think you're still junior enough as a second year associate that a lot of firms would be willing to "re-tool" you into another practice group, provided that there is a need. From my own experience and talking with recruiters, it's much harder to do after you become a third year associate.

If in-house is the goal, you need to switch to a corporate practice, specifically M&A, Capital Markets or Tech/IP Transactions.

I would avoid any kind of finance practice (e.g., Acquisition Finance, Asset Finance, Banking/Credit, Project Finance, Structured Finance, etc.), as they typically lead to a very narrow range of exit options both in terms of industry (banks) and geography (NYC). And based on my colleagues that have left for such exits, they seem like both non-lifestyle and mind numbingly boring rubber stamping sort of jobs with little to no upward mobility. If you're a restructuring associate, recruiters may pitch you finance as the most applicable group for a re-tool, but I would resist it if possible. Good luck!

kaiser

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Re: How to move in-house?

Post by kaiser » Sat Nov 09, 2019 11:12 pm

(1) Typically the corporate groups have an easier pipeline into in-house positions. The only litigation-focused group that has lots of in-house options tends to be labor & employment since every large company and organization (and many smaller companies) have in-house employment counsel.

(2) I can speak to this since I did it myself. I was placed into a general litigation group even though I wanted to be in another more specific, litigation-related group. I made a lateral move around 1.5 years in. The key is to move ASAP before the substantive gap builds up. As for how you sell it, it is a little of both. You tell them you are really focused and driven to break into X practice area, which unfortunately isn't possible at your current firm. And then you explain each and every detail about your background and experience that is relevant to X group. Did you take a law school course in that area? Do a summer associate project in that area? All of that would be highly relevant to show that you are genuine.

(3) That shouldn't be a consideration at all in the decision. Its one thing to switch practice groups because you are looking 2 steps ahead toward a possible in-house career. But you can't really make it more specific than that at this point.

(4) It is definitely worth working with a recruiter. I worked with one who used to be an attorney in the practice area I was looking to break into. So she shared lots of tips and pointers for how to present my experience and what I should focus on. She also knew folks in all of the firms in my desired area of practice.

(5) It is typical for folks to make a "mulligan" move early in their biglaw tenure. One quick course correction is entirely common and acceptable. But usually, that is followed by a few years at the new firm. When I was in your shoes, and made the move at 1.5 years, I told myself I would likely need to stay a minimum of 3 years at my new firm before I could realistically consider any further move. My fear was that I would look like a serial jumper if I made another quick move.

Also, you have to keep in mind that most companies hiring for in-house positions want to see quite a few years of prior firm experience. The solicitation emails I get almost never say anything lower than 5 years as a minimum. Every now and then I will see a posting for an in-house role that only requires 3 or so years, but those are rare. Much more common to see a minimum in the 5-7 range. So to realistically compete for most in-house positions, you will likely need to stay around 3 years at least. And remember that you will be substantively behind by 2 years, so while they may be willing to take someone with 5 years experience, that same company may want 6 years from you because you didn't start in that particular practice until later.

shock259

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Re: How to move in-house?

Post by shock259 » Tue Nov 12, 2019 11:48 am

Anonymous User wrote: (1) I get that I will probably have to switch practice groups. But to what? Corporate? Regulatory?
(2) How, in practice, does one go about switching practice groups? Do you just say "I want to do something else," or does one have to spin his or her experience as relevant to the new group? I would likely be switching firms so please take that into account as well.
(3) Does the practice area I choose matter in terms of constricting the location of my potential future in-house job? I'm not sure where I want to end up eventually, so I'd like to have as much flexibility as possible.
(4) Should I use a recruiter when switching practice groups?
(5) How long should I expect to work in my new group before realistically being able to get an in-house role?
First, there's some good advice from others in this thread.

(1) You may or may not have to switch. Yes, corporate experience is generally more useful but are you able to point toward corporate experiences you have had in your restructuring role? I have no idea what a restructuring practice is like, but do you read organizational documents, review contracts, negotiate reps/warranties and covenants in purchase agreements, and the like? If yes, then you have "corporate" experience. Many in house jobs basically require you to start from scratch with your knowledge base, so it doesn't really matter what specific corporate area you were in when you arrived. Note that this does not apply to some of the largest legal departments, which can be as specialized as law firms (Amazon, JPM, etc.).

(2) Can't really help much with this one, unfortunately. I stayed in my practice group until I left biglaw.

(3) I think my view on this is mostly covered in (1). But if you do end up in a super specialized, niche area of biglaw for many years (5+), you could be geographically constrained. The example everyone uses is finance. There, if you stay in finance too long, you will have a harder time pitching yourself to anyone other than a large bank. Large banks are really the only places that hire finance associates, and for the most part, large banks have their finance folks and finance lawyers in NY, CA, DC and maybe a few other places. It would be hard to move into that in smaller, secondary markets.

(4) Not really sure.

(5) Not really sure here either.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: How to move in-house?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Nov 12, 2019 7:31 pm

(1) If you are interested in going in-house, I would switch to a corporate/M&A practice at the largest, most prestigious law firm that you can get into.
(2) As a second year restructuring associate, I moved to a different firm in its corporate finance group. If you are around or under two years, firms are way more willing to retrain you in a new practice group. On your resume, focus most of your experience on the transactional side of your current practice (for me at least, my transactional practice was hybrid lit/transactional). On your cover letter, specify that you appreciate the transactional side of your practice and stick to your accomplishments on the transactional side.
(3) Yes. Being a corporate generalist (e.g. corporate governance, M&A, etc) is definitely what you should shoot for if you are looking for flexibility in your future location.
(4) At your year, I wouldn't, and I didn't.
(5) Most in-house opportunities present themselves in your fifth year. I think this will be the case for you regardless of whether two of those years were spent in restructuring as long as you frame your restructuring experience smartly.

Good luck!

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