Is the In House Counsel Lifestyle Really Better?

By Andrew Lu on October 03, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a recent article, in house counsel lifestyles were described as seemingly much better than the lifestyle of law firm attorneys.

The article was no big shocker as the general stereotype is that in house counsel positions are much cushier than law firm positions. The hours are better, there's no need to bill, etc.

But the article in Above the Law seems to suggest that the actual culture of a corporation was better than a law firm. This included the hierarchy of corporations to the level of support that employees receive.

This institutional difference suggested in the article was actually quite interesting, though it's not certain just exactly how accurate it is.

The gist of the article is that law firms are dog-eat-dog. You screw up once, and you're basically out with a partner (if not the firm). You have the constant need to bill at a law firm, and the constant need to move up.

If you're not rising to senior associate, junior partner, equity partner, than you're on your way out. In this meat-grinder atmosphere, associates and even partners are bad-mouthed by their peers should their performance falter for even an instant. And for the most part, many law firm associates may agree that this is an accurate portrayal of life in a firm.

However, it would be interesting to see if the author's take on life as in house counsel is similarly accurate.

Because for every tongue-lashing and degrading assignment at a law firm, an in house attorney seemingly received boundless encouragement and "attaboys" -- regardless of how badly they screwed up.

Companies are portrayed as afraid to terminate employees for fear of harming employee morale. And screwups are viewed as things to overcome, instead of ever-lasting black spots to your name.

While not all law firms may be as bad as portrayed here, the flip-side is that not all in house positions may be as positive as portrayed either. Where does the truth fall? Who knows. But given the amount of anecdotal evidence of in house counsels being the "dream" job, there has to be some truth there.

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