10 February 2015

Planning Your Career: Moving In-House

Published on 10 February 2015
With 2015 well underway, many of you will now be looking to plan your career paths for the remainder of the year. As Insights explored last year, a career as an in-house lawyer can be an attractive prospect to many lawyers, and recent trends have indicated a surge in the size and number of in-house counsel teams across Australasia. For those who feel that 2015 may be the year to move in-house, Insights has compiled a list of tips to make the transition as smooth as possible.

Speak to recruiters – but beware of the risks
Scott Gibson, the director of London-based in-house counsel recruitment consultancy Edwards Gibson, advises prospective in-house lawyers to consider the realities of the employment environment when seeking out a recruitment agency.

“The most important thing for you to be aware of is that, in absolute contrast to law firm recruitment, the candidate is generally much less important to the recruiter than the corporate client,” Gibson said.

“In almost every circumstance, there are far fewer active roles in-house than in law firms; consequently, there are almost always vastly more suitably qualified candidates for each in-house role than for an equivalent in private practice.”

Despite such a sobering claim, Gibson still recommends that those aiming for an in-house career incorporate recruitment firms into their job-hunting strategy.

The overwhelming likelihood is that you will still secure your role through a recruiter,” he said.

“My suggestion is you speak to at least two or three.  Always be very careful to make sure that you are very exact in your instructions as to what they should do and be sure to keep tabs on which organisations they approach on your behalf.  Bear in mind a truly good in-house recruiter will be replete with quality candidates and it will often be they who determine if you make a shortlist for interview.”

Gather experience in private practice
Employment specialist Kat Gibson works in-house for beverage conglomerate Coca-Cola. Having worked at a number of law firms before making the leap to in-house, Gibson advises would-be in-house lawyers to work in private practice for at least two years first, building a basis in commercial law and business acumen.

“Get client exposure, listen to what they say and learn how different companies reach business decisions,” she told The Guardian.

Grace Rothery, in-house counsel at energy provider GazProm, echoed Gibson’s sentiments, urging junior lawyers take advantage of the support and training offered private practice before making the move.

“The leap from trainee to qualified is quite hard. Going in-house may be too much straight on qualification and could be a bit daunting," she said.

Find a secondment
In addition to searching for the right recruiter, Scott Gibson recommends a number of other strategies for finding the right in-house position. Chief among them is searching for a secondment.

“Obtaining a secondment has the triple benefit of enabling you to confirm that you do in fact want to move in-house, increase your marketability to other C&I teams, and give you the possibility of joining the organisation in question at the end of your secondment,” Gibson said.