Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went In-House (Part 2)

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on July 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The in-house counsel position is one of mystery. To the unknowing outsider, it looks like the perfect legal job. But, to those who have been there, done that, the outlook is a little different, if not bleaker. We decided to crack the code of silence of in-house attorneys and find out the real deal on what they wish they knew before they went in-house.

On Monday, we shared points 1 to 5 - here now, are 6 to 10 ...

6. Even More Red Tape

The internal bureaucracy and politics of working at a company can be worse than law firms. At least in law firms you have objective measures of performance such as hours billed and revenue in. When you're in-house you don't have those methods of measuring, so the politics can be more arbitrary. Be ready to play nice -- with everyone.

7. Wrong Column: You're an Expense, Not a Revenue Generator

As a law firm attorney you make money for the firm, where as an in-house attorney you cost the company money. The corporate perks reflect this revenue creator v. cost center model. For example, if you are accustomed to flying business class in your law firm days, as in-house and you will probably be flying coach. And no more fancy client dinners either.

8. They Counsel, You Decide

As in-house counsel you need to be comfortable making risk-based decisions with no hesitation. While law firm attorneys can provide the pros and cons and advise his/her client, it's up to the in-house counsel to be the decider. Law firm attorneys may be under a lot of pressure, but much of the time, they don't have the stress of making risky business decisions.

9. Know What You're Getting Into

Thinking of making the leap from law firm to small indie start-up? Sounds cool, and the pay-off can be huge, but you should know what you're getting into. If it's a very small company, you may be wearing lots of hats in addition to "attorney." For some, that sounds exciting. If that doesn't sound appealing to you make sure you know up front exactly what the position entails.

10. Not Everyone Becomes GC

When you are working at a law firm there are usually multiple partners so at least know you may have a shot at making partner. When you're in-house there's only one General Counsel -- and all of your fellow in-house attorneys are vying for that same position. If you don't like those odds, in-house may not be for you.

Look, we're not trying to push you either way about becoming in-house counsel or not. Being a corporate attorney is nearly always seen as a positive thing; we just wanted to play devil's advocate a bit because there is definitely a lot of smoke and mirrors around the sought after in-house counsel position.

Let us know if you think we left anything out or have more thoughts for us at @FindLawLP.

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