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I am seeking to move from in-house back to PP- will firms want me?
       Elvira Naiman          Mar 08, 2013

Many candidates tell us that a move in-house is not necessarily the panacea it once was. 10 years ago moving in-house was an opportunity for lawyers to work fewer hours- usually for bigger dollars and what they might have missed in black letter law they would make up in being closer to “the business”.

 

Many candidates tell us that a move in-house is not necessarily the panacea it once was. 10 years ago moving in-house was an opportunity for lawyers to work fewer hours- usually for bigger dollars and what they might have missed in black letter law they would make up in being closer to “the business”.

 

Over the last decade the role of the in-house counsel has changed and there would be few legal teams who are not asked to become increasingly accountable for external legal spend. The increased accountability, greater regulatory environment and market conditions has meant that more work has been kept in-house and in-house lawyers will these days work similar hours to their Private practice counterparts. The various business units which might rely on the legal team to move  deals and contracts through at speed are equally under pressure to produce revenue- adding even more weight to the shoulders of in-house counsel.

 

With in-house roles not any longer being the answer to moving away from 6 minute units- a good number of in-house lawyers  have returned to Private practice. For a successful move back into private practice the trick seems to be several fold. Firstly, don’t dilute the specialist skill set you once had. If you were a property lawyer for 6 years and then spent the next 4 years being a generalist commercial in-house counsel- you may not be able to return to private practice as a 10 year property lawyer. By all means some broadening of skill set is not a bad thing- but getting too broad or completely away from the skills set you developed in private practice wont assist you in moving back to private practice. Equally- time seems to be relevant. Three to four years out of private practice appears manageable for firms- much more than that is not. Thirdly, brand will count. Experience in a blue chip corporate will always be viewed higher than equally good experience in an organization that is less known. Lastly- if you are going into a corporate to do legal work, to the extent possible make sure your title has “legal” or “counsel” in it. Titles called “contracts manager”, “analyst” or anything else that doesn’t resonate with firms will make things more difficult for a move back to private practice.

 

There are of course exceptions to the above and the market often sees experienced General Counsel joining a firm as partner, but what they usually bring to the table is the organization they were the GC for- as a new client- or an opportunity to strengthen an existing client relationship.