How Should I Approach an In-House Search?
“Thanks, but I am really only interested in hearing about in-house opportunities.” I hear this phrase quite a bit. I understand that there are many aspects of the highly coveted in-house role that would seem appealing to the law firm lawyer … better lifestyle, the possibility of working closely with the “business side,” and NO MORE BILLABLE HOURS! Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? BUT, allow me if you will, to take a minute to mention that some of these ethereal jobs aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. I am not suggesting that you abort the mission, however, I would make sure that you consider the following elements of any in-house role before making the jump: quality of work, professional mobility, compensation structure (including future increases), and the value of lawyers in that corporate landscape. Very often, young lawyers make the transition from a law firm to an in-house department and find themselves wondering if they left law firm life too quickly. On the other hand, many lawyers find success in transitioning to a different type of law firm that actually creates a better platform for their professional development and long-term career. Believe it or not, all law firms are not created equal! BUT, if you have made a thoughtful assessment that in-house is the best route for you, below is a brief, but hopefully informative summary to assist you in your search.
LOOK WITHIN YOUR FIRM
Many law firms actually help their associates transition to an in-house role — whether to a client and/or through the firm’s relationships and connections. Law firms understand the reality that not all of their best and brightest associates will stay with them to make partner, and placing those associates at a client only solidifies the relationship. If you feel too nervous about talking to one of your partners about your desire to transition out, think about talking in confidence with someone in professional development at your firm. Also, check to see if your firm has a confidential email distribution with in-house jobs.
NETWORKING (INCLUDING WITH RECRUITERS)
I’m not sure how many recruiters are willing to admit this, but some of the best in-house jobs are not found through a recruiter. Not that you shouldn’t continue to talk to recruiters — you should, and talk to them ALL, because each recruiter has exclusive access to different in-house roles. However, networking on your own has tremendous value. Beyond speaking to friends, family and former co-workers, talk to alumni. Contact your college and law school, and ask them for the password to their alumni database. You have access to tons of lawyers who would be thrilled to grab coffee with a fellow alum, and who may be able to set up additional meetings for you. Also, sign up for programs with your city bar association and bring your business cards (make sure to hand them out!). Talk to as many people as you can! It’s often a job within itself, but so often worth the effort.
What did we do before the internet? Many fantastic in-house roles can be found online, so start clicking. I have no royalties in any of these websites (sadly), but here are a few to check out: goinhouse.com, acc.com, and indeed.com. LinkedIn has also become a hotspot for finding a range of job opportunities.
All it really takes is some effort and a bit of luck, but your future in-house role awaits you!