As in-house legal recruiters, we have observed that some of the vacancies we hire for are created because the previous job holder has moved from the legal team into another business function.
Recently, we spoke to a Magic Circle lawyer who said:
“While I am currently happy at my firm, I am interested in the tech world and especially in how it is shaping the world.
When I think about my future, I would like to be part of the change, but I am not sure if in a lawyer’s role.
I truly believe that the jobs of the future will require flexible skills, and I am not entirely sure that I would like to be a lawyer for the rest of my life”.
Many lawyers feel the same way as this Magic Circle lawyer, and some admit that a non-legal role at a tech company would be very attractive.
But how can they make the transition, particularly if they are currently in private practice?
One option is to apply to roles of interest, such as sales or business development, in fast-growing tech companies. However, your application may get overlooked by the Talent Acquisition team, who will likely prioritize those with experience in a similar role (for example, sales or commercial).
From our perspective, the easiest and most natural route is to join a technology company’s legal department.
As an in-house counsel, you will have immediate access to other functions, such as sales, HR, marketing, finance, product, or developers. With the right attitude, it won’t take long to establish yourself as a trusted advisor to your colleagues.
This will give you invaluable insight into how a technology company operates, what qualities are of value, and where you could best utilise your talents and passions.
You will also have access to all of the company’s vacancies. To give you an idea of the abundance of opportunities, an 80,000 employee business has over a thousand roles available at any given time, while a company with a headcount of 20,000 might have 250-300 open positions.
As a lawyer, particularly if you have worked in private practice, you possess qualities that are desirable to many commercial teams, including a high IQ, attention to detail, the ability to work well under stress, the ability to remain calm in crisis situations, the ability to build relationships and establish trust, as well as business development and public speaking skills.
As an internal employee, it is easier to demonstrate these qualities to your non-legal hiring managers and HR teams and transition into the role of your choice.
This is a comment received from a Regional Legal Director of a global technology company in response to this post.
“I wanted to reply to you regarding the shift from legal to commercial roles. I made that transition myself during my time at [a global company with 70 000 employees] where I went from Legal Director to Global Head of Sales, Bids and Business Development in a new business unit.
As the unit was new, they wanted someone who knew the company well, had shown a sound commercial understanding of the business as well as governance and who had a lot of energy as it was almost like a start-up only in an existing company. And so they picked me who had been part of the high potential program and who also needed to ”climb” in order to stay in the company.”
I guess it shows that this strategy works, particularly because it is so costly for corporations to lose (and replace) valuable talent who know the business well.