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Your legal skills are likely to deteriorate once you go in-house (BCG)

A 10-page screed by the executive search firm BCG aimed at law firm lawyers, as it exposes “several little known facts about going in house that may not necessarily make it the best decision for you.” One of the five plagues unleashed by a move from a law firm to a law department is that “your legal skills are likely to deteriorate once you go in house” (id at 1).

By the lights of BCG, “a large portion of the responsibility of many in house attorneys is to farm out challenging work to the appropriate law firms.” Hence, “it is unlikely you will stay abreast of the law once you are in house because you will have no reason to” (id at 8).

BCG is wrong-headed. In the questions of law that matter to a business, internal lawyers become very specialized. And, equally wrong, the ideal inhouse role is not the potted palm, the roundtable for the trains of outside counsel.

Specialized, deep knowledge of an area of law is not the only way to be a quality lawyer. A quote by the UK’s Carphone Warehouse group corporate counsel, Tim Morris, makes the point. “On any given day we might be working on anything from an acquisition to a commercial agreement. That way it keeps everyone interested and it’s a good way of keeping high-quality lawyers.”