Opportunities exist in-house in a wide variety of sectors with different requirements, from financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies, right through to commercial businesses such as technology, engineering, and construction companies. Individual businesses also have their own cultures and styles which are usually a far cry from private practice law firms.
While promotion within law firms usually occurs because lawyers consistently beat billable hour targets and meet appraisal expectations, in-house lawyers’ performances typically are not measured in this way so they have to work harder to carve out a career path.
Successful progression in-house requires polished soft skills including good communication, strong relationship management, alignment to the business’s interest, and genuine commerciality. Demonstrating this can mean:
Identifying the skills gaps in the legal team early on and filling them, even if they are not your immediate area of expertise;
Actively promoting yourself as a resource to other departments within the business;
Making sure work coming in from business functions in the company is done in a timely manner and offers a workable commercial solution so that you win trust with other departments while, at the same time, maintaining your professionalism, independence, and objectivity;
Identifying where legal knowledge can enhance commercial opportunities, particularly in relation to new products or services, and engaging pro-actively with the relevant managers.
Honing your management skills and working yourself firmly into the business culture of your company by being approachable and open;
Displaying a keen interest in the business itself and new projects outside of your area of expertise that you can volunteer for, particularly where tasks might offer influence at board level; and
Actively involving yourself in business development functions.
Lawyers ready to go beyond the usual benchmarks and really integrate their legal skills into a business environment should consider a move in-house