Monday, August 15, 2022

What it’s like to Work In-house as an Attorney Versus Working at a Law Firm as an Attorney

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I just finished up my summer internship working for the legal team of a publicly traded corporation. This blog post is just based on my observations while shadowing attorneys.

This was my first in-house legal position after several positions of working for nonprofits and law firms.

I loved this job.

On one of my first days of work, general counsel, my boss, told me that when you work at a firm you have a vertical mindset, where you become a professional in one specific topic. But when you work for a company, you have a horizontal mindset, and you have to be a professional in a lot of areas.

I loved that analogy. I couldn’t agree more.

I am sharing some similarities and differences that I have observed working in-house and for a firm.

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-Attorneys are involved, duh!

-Legal research is conducted the same way in both places of business (Lexis, Westlaw).

-The same ethical rules apply like attorney-client privilege.

-All attorneys work long hours.

-Working in-house means that the legal team will have attorneys and non-attorneys on the team. Most law firms have non-attorneys (such as paralegals), but the attorneys and paralegals work on the same matters. The people in the firm that do administrative things for the company will not collaborate on a matter, like they would at a corporation.

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-Working for a company means you collaborate with other departments on projects (marketing, sales, finance). 

-Working in-house means attorneys give legal advice on lots of different matters. Depending on the firm, and your specialization in the firm, you could give legal advice on lots of different topics, but usually not. 

-The clients are different. For in-house attorneys, the client is the company, whereas a firm has many clients.

-The goals are different. For an in-house position, your goal as an attorney is to mitigate risk for the company. At a firm, you work for your client and help them achieve what they want to accomplish.

-In-house counsel requires hiring a lot of outside counsel as you cannot know everything about every topic.

-Pay is different.

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