Legal Career Paths

It has been over a year since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and the period in between proved to be very difficult for all professionals including legal. From high-status legal experts losing out on salary and other benefits to entry level practitioners feeling the extra pressure of launching a successful career, reality showed that withstanding in a shifting jobs market is more than challenging. So how do you plan ahead and decide about your career?

Working In-House

With the financial sector recovering from the recent downturn, in-house lawyers are once again in high demand at all levels and practices. Given the stability an in-house legal career can offer, the sector is attracting even more legal professionals. From large corporations to blue chip financial companies the opportunities are expanding with diverse specialisation areas in litigation, corporate law, employment law, contract law, international law etc. Whether you are a qualified lawyer or just starting your professional legal career the options are wide open and there are many specialised agencies to offer guidance and career advice.

If you are looking for an in-house legal job there are certain benefits you should consider. These include the work-life balance, perks that a large corporation can provide, virtually no stress in recruiting new clients, career growth, compensation etc. By carefully weighing the advantages of an in-house role you can decide whether such a career path is suitable for you or not. Once you have decided that in-house is the way forward then the research starts as to what sort of company is a better layout for you experience, career aspirations and expectations. Each company has different options to offer in terms of operations and the internal structure may differ. This will have an effect on the nature and size of responsibilities you'll be assigned as well as the learning curve to be followed.

Working for a private practice

Depending on their experience, lawyers in private practices start as associates working alongside other experienced legal professionals. The working culture is very different compared to in-house with the majority of private practice lawyers having to work long and irregular hours. The responsibilities vary but in most cases cover a wide range of aspects such as meeting and advising clients, preparing legal papers and documentation or researching legal cases. The road to success is often stressful and after several years some layers admitted to partnership in law firms or they may set up their own law firms.

There can be immense satisfaction both intellectual and financial for talented lawyers working in a private practice. Given the competitive nature of the profession successful legal professionals need to be constantly in touch with the latest legislative, regulatory or technological developments of the sector they specialise in. As a result, high earning can be achieved along with other social and professional rewards. Benefits and other perks offered by private firms can also be very attractive including stock options, lucrative bonuses and more.

So, which one is better for me?

Choosing between an in-house and private practice legal career depends on your personal skills, aspirations and priorities. If quality of life and a healthy balance between family and work is what you are after then an in-house legal job suits you better. If on the other hand you are driven by the financial and social status a successful career can bring then a private practice role has probably more to offer. Be realistic and examine all the benefits and drawback each path may have and if necessary do some further research. Get in touch if possible with some people that are already practicing in these fields to get a better insight. Be proactive, set up a plan that will help you choose a career that can maximise your potential and allow you achieve your targets.

Peter Percival is an independent consultant specialising in legal recruitment. He often writes for various companies that deal with in-house legal jobs as well as agencies sourcing for private practice legal vacancies in the UK.

Published At: Legal Career Paths

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