Why are Lawyers Moving In-house?

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Why are Lawyers Moving In-house?

Amidst unprecedented rates of regulatory change, advancements in legal tech, and economic tumult, demand for in-house lawyers is surging. We’re seeing plenty of candidates weigh up the idea of switching from private practice to an in-house position, but what’s inspiring the move? 

London, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, Dublin, and Edinburgh are the cities seeing the most movement, with activity rising across the tech, pharmaceutical, and financial services industries, presenting some enticing opportunities for those looking to take on a new challenge.

Work/Life Balance

For many, the in-house option represents a better work/life balance, and while this isn’t always the case, the prospect of an annual salary (rather than a billable rate) is enticing.

In private practice, lawyers are commonly paid on a minimum billable hours framework, a system that imposes a quota that must be met to fulfil the needs of the client and justify the large salaries.

This framework is vilified by many lawyers – it tends to inspire burnout culture, and it’s a convincing reason to make the leap to in-house. Thankfully, firms are breaking free of the billable hour system in favour of modern alternatives, such as retained services or value billing.

Preconceptions need to be challenged – Broadgate recently placed a candidate back into a private practice role with lower billable expectations than they were used to in-house.

The legal space is notorious for its exceptionally long hours and distinct lack of work/life balance. Combine this with a helping of post-COVID introspection and a candidate-driven market, and you’ve got a recipe for a paradigm shift. That said, the move in-house is inspired by more than just a lifestyle change.

For some, that shift means embracing the alternative and moving back into private practice in the name of career progression, although the myth that in-house positions are lacking in opportunities needs to be busted.

One Client, One Big Responsibility

When you’re working in-house, you’re effectively working for one client – the organisation that you’re employed by. Private practice usually involves working for a variety of clients at any given time, and as a result, the depth of transaction tends to be shallower.

It’s often framed as a generalist versus specialist work, with the latter being the realm of the private practice, but it doesn’t always pan out this way – if you’re part of a larger in-house team, there’s every chance you’ll specialise in one particular area.

Candidates tend to value the depth of responsibility that the in-house role brings, offering them the chance to operate inside the wider scope of the business, which typically involves working with a range of departments and building relationships.

Despite working with myriad clients, the foundations of the role requirements don’t differ too drastically for private practice lawyers, hence why they’re revered for their specialisms.

In the current climate, highly specialised practice lawyers are in a prime position to move in-house – we’re seeing a rise in IT and pharma companies targeting practice lawyers with commercial contract skill sets. The market is lively, and we expect to continue seeing moves from practice to in-house and vice-versa, particularly in the Dublin market as the city strengthens its foothold as a major European tech hub.

Opportunities for Growth

Private practice is traditionally known for its highly structured career progression pathways and high earning potential, but how big is that potential compared to in-house remuneration?

The room for an increase is drastic. The Broadgate team recently placed a lawyer moving out of in-house and back into practice, securing a salary uplift of nearly 25% (€90,000 to €115,000).

We have seen salaries increase on the in-house side, and ultimately, the two options differ widely when it comes to responsibilities, environment, culture, and general workflow.

As usual, the best decision depends on the dynamic between the candidate and the opportunity. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, whether that means getting hired or doing the hiring yourself, the highly specialised legal search team at Broadgate is here to help. Reach out to us here to discuss the options in detail.