This article takes a look at four of the key challenges which are faced by In-house lawyers and what you can do to overcome these.
- Stigma As unfair as it may seem, there remains a stigma amongst some within the legal community that Inhouse lawyers are not as battle-ready, capable or cutting edge as some of their private practice counterparts. Speaking from personal experience, I do not recall a single negotiation, transaction or contract where it hasn’t been a level playing field and I have never felt that my counterparty came away with the better end of the deal. I am sure this is true of many other In-house lawyers who know their brief, know their facts, know their industry and know the client’s push points exceptionally well. Still, the stigma remains and new entrants need to be ready for it.
- Becoming a GP’s surgery for the whole business Avoid the temptation to get drawn into all manner of personal advice and employee grumbling. Having an In-house lawyer can be too tempting for many non- lawyer employees, so make sure you work for an organization which has, or which allows you to introduce, clear protocols and user rules around how to instruct and engage the In-house legal team.
- Be your own champion & enhance your career mobility It is up to you to shape your career from within an In-house role. Push the boundaries, seek out the more interesting more challenging work, and prevent it from being outsourced to external lawyers. It is by doing this that you will enrich your career, keep your skill sets modern and relevant, and more than likely increase the chances of your own mobility and free movement to pursue your legal career across legal disciplines and geographical borders.
- Don’t become ‘Jack’ Finally, the biggest challenge is to avoid being seen as a ‘jack of all trades’ and master of none. This will happen if you let it. It is up to every individual lawyer to be disciplined enough to undertake plenty of continuing professional development (CPD), pick three areas you like or know the most, and accentuate your profile and reputation in these. Become known as having specialisms in a number of areas – as well as being a good general lawyer who knows a range of other legal facets. I personally cannot speak highly enough of the practice of setting aside an hour every Friday to use social media legal tools, or online updates to learn two new legal developments every week.