Reasons to go in-house; reasons not to go in-house

The executive search firm BCG summarizes the sunshine inside: “more interesting work, shorter hours, potentially lucrative stock options and the opportunity to be on the ‘business side’ in a corporate environment.” To these rays of light I would add that you can believe in what your client is doing more than in a law firm and you neither have to market – in the same way that law firm partners have to bring in business – nor do you have to track time.

What law firm lawyers do not as fully appreciate, according to BCG are the in-house clouds: (1) “It is extremely difficult to get another law firm job once you have gone in house;” (2) “The overwhelming majority of attorneys do not reap an economic windfall when they go in house;” (3) “It is very difficult to move to another in-house job once you have gone in house;” (4) “Your legal skills are likely to deteriorate once you go in house (See my post of March 26, 2006 disagreeing with this point.); and (5) “You may have to work as hard as you did in a law firm.” To these dark sides I might add that often there is little or no career path, in terms of promotions – but then again, when is a law firm partner promoted? It also seems to me that there is more job security in a law firm, assuming you keep yourself busy, than in a company where mergers, spin-offs and downsizings flare up.

As to point 2, unless you work for a publicly-traded company, are awarded stock options, the options vest, and the stock rises, most employee lawyers simply earn what they earn. But my reaction most of all is that BCG is comparing journeymen corporate lawyers to high-profit partners at big firms. The majority of private practice lawyers toil in the vineyards of obscurity and modest earnings. As to point 3, I have not seen data about mobility between law departments (See my post of Oct. 26, 2005 spoofing on sources of hires.)

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