When is it too late to move in-house?

I often speak with experienced lawyers who are finally ready to move in-house but are met with lack of opportunities.

10 PQE is typically a cut off point where we get a lot of senior lawyers competing for a limited number of suitable jobs on the market.

If your goal is to move in-house, and you have only worked for law firms, at that PQE level it can be really tough.

By 10 PQE most of your peers keen on being in-house counsel will have move moved in-house.

In-house environment and stakeholders are very different to law firms.

When in-house teams hire at 10+ PQE level, they need someone who can step into a role with a lot of responsibility, and who will be able to learn to navigate the complexity of business stakeholders without the team holding their hand.

Of course, there will be induction and support, but they are aware that someone with previous in-house experience will instinctively know:

  • where to find answers to their questions
  • how to bond with the business
  • how to communicate with non lawyers
  • how to influence stakeholders
  • how to present solutions in a way that non-lawyers agree with them
  • how to manage up and down etc

At 10+ PQE, most of your peers already have several years of experience mastering these skills.

If you do not see yourself staying in private practice long term, the sooner you move in-house, the better.

What in-house teams value is the first few years of experience in private practice – when you become a technically good commercial lawyer and develop your soft skills.

2-4 years is enough (including training).

Once you have gained this experience, you have built your value for in-house teams and they will be more than happy to hire you.

Actually, if you move in-house earlier than your peers, you are creating a competitive advantage for your career.

Who will land a GC role sooner: a private practice lawyer or someone who has already gained 8-6 years of experience in-house after a good law firm?

So the best time to move in-house is:

  • as soon as you are ready
  • you have found a role that will serve as a solid foundation for your further in-house career.