What is in-house counsel?

In-house counsel are hired by a company to handle a range of legal issues affecting that business. Their job is to understand the pressure points, strategy and objectives of the business and effectively communicate the risks and legal issues involved in decisions being made. An in-house legal counsel will take on a managerial role to oversee the work that is being done by outsourced legal professionals. 

Depending on the size of the business and the nature of its work, in-house lawyers may be either specialists in a certain field or general commercial practitioners. There does tend to be fewer litigators working in-house than transactional attorneys as most companies prefer to outsource litigious matters to lawyers at private firms, particularly at the entry level, as they want matters to be handled by experts. 

While entry-level in-house opportunities are limited, there are some benefits in securing this role: 

  • Training in several areas of law –in-house attorneys will usually work as generalists, so they’re able to gain experience in many areas of law.
  • Improved work/life balance – an in-house career lends itself to a more balanced lifestyle and allows for a more predictable schedule overall.
  • Increased business involvement – as well as completing usual attorney tasks, in-house staff are able to gain an insider’s point of view on how the company operates and are often also presented with more unique benefits. 
  • More career opportunities – In-house lawyers have the potential to use their corporate experience to branch out into a different career path. They may be attracted to a position such as a corporate strategist or business development director.

Although, there are also a few disadvantages of pursuing a career in-house: 

  • Lower compensation – while in-house counsel are regarded as well paid, they will likely receive a lot less than those working for large law firms. 
  • Less chance to specialise – because in-house counsel are in charge of tackling all of a company’s legal issues, they become well versed in a number of areas rather than experts in a single one which can limit their opportunity to specialise in one area of law. 
  • Smaller working environment – corporate law departments are significantly smaller than large law firms and can lack some of the perks of a bigger workplace. 

There are many benefits of working in-house for a company but working for a firm, or even a law consultancy company, shouldn’t be pushed aside entirely. Everyone will respond differently to a type of working environment, and to a different area of law.

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