Summary: Learn why the belief that going in-house is a good career move is completely wrong and what going in-house actually does to your legal career.
FACT: Partners and others make attorneys feel good about going in-house for one simple reason: That attorney might give them business in the future. This is a cold, hard, simple fact. While many attorneys are likely to meet mentors and others inside a law firm, from a business standpoint, partners and others care very little about departing attorneys unless they believe those departing attorneys will give them business in the future. They do not show up at the parties of attorneys leaving for other pursuits because they do not care.
Keep in mind that working in the legal profession and staying employed in high-paying competitive law firms is a game. Good attorneys understand this and they are going to KISS ASS to anyone whom they believe can help them on their way. Good law firm attorneys go out of their way to meet and ingratiate themselves with anyone they believe can help their careers—and in this case that means giving them business.
This is the way the profession has worked for thousands of years—it has not changed and will always be like this.
FACT: Going in-house is not always a career saver that makes people happy. Most often, going in-house is a career killer. I will elucidate the numerous reasons for this below; however, here are a few of the reasons this is such an insane choice for most attorneys:
- Your skills will deteriorate rapidly and significantly. The most important work will be sent to law firms and not done by you.
- You will become a "cost center" and not a profit-generator (in most instances) and will be one of the first to go when the company experiences problems – and all companies do.
- You will no longer be employable by almost any law firm whatsoever when you lose your job – and you most likely will lose your job inside of a company.
- Most companies want to hire younger attorneys (often from law firms) with "fresher" skills than an in-house attorney coming from another company.
- Without clients of your own, you will have zero control over your career.
- When the company experiences some significant legal problems – and most companies do – you and others in the legal department who "touched" the matter will all likely lose your jobs.
- Most attorneys inside of companies are the "resident buzz kills" who spend their days covering their asses by telling management (i.e., people actually doing things) what is not possible. They become impediments to getting things done and are often not liked too much by people inside of the companies either (i.e., they become more isolated and lonely inside of companies than they were inside of law firms).
FACT: The smart associates and others who are talking about how great it is to go in-house are not talking about this because they want to go in-house: They make this seem like a good decision because getting rid of you means there is less competition for them.
The smart partners who encourage other partners that this is a good decision (1) want your clients and (2) a bigger share of the profits. No one inside of a law firm is ever going to tell you that going in-house is a bad idea BECAUSE IT DOES NOT BENEFIT THEM.
Nearly every attorney wants to be liked by other attorneys. By romanticizing going in-house and making this seem like a great thing, the smart attorneys are helping themselves and improving their own careers at your expense. If anyone is telling you that going in-house is a good idea then you should smile and get the hell away from this person. They are dangerous.
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