60% of in-house solicitors work in the private sector, mostly in financial services. 37% work in the public sector, for the local government or Crown Prosecution Service, for example. 3% work for advice centres or charities. In-house lawyers may specialise in one area of law if they’re working for a multinational corporation, or they may be expected to cover a wide range of issues if they work for a smaller organisation such as a charity.
With the rise in the number of in-house solicitors, the number of in-house training contracts is also on the up, with the BBC being the latest high profile name to launch their own programme. So, what are the advantages of undertaking in-house training, and why are they increasing?
Advantages of In-House Training
Training in-house is a significantly different experience to training in private practice. For instance, the long hours experienced by trainees, associates and partners alike is not as common in-house, but this is often in return for a lower salary (swings and roundabouts, right?).
As is increasingly the case in private practice, its crazy important that in-house lawyers are aware of how legal issues will affect business strategy. It’s not just about being able to know everything about employment law, you need to understand how issues affect business – risk, cost etc. As you’re really working for ‘one client’ it shouldn’t be too difficult for you learn the ins and outs of the business.
Not every in-house team deals with all legal matters. Take Arsenal FC, for example. Though their in-house legal team comprises of several senior lawyers, they are also a client of Slaughter and May. One trainee had the opportunity to undertake a client secondment at Arsenal, spending six months with their legal team, “drafting contracts, checking terms and conditions, chasing outstanding debts” and other legal tasks. Whilst client secondments are intended to give trainees an insight into the mind of a client for when they qualify in private practice, it can also prepare them for later in their career when they pursue an in-house role.
Why Are In-House Training Contracts on the Rise?
In-house training contracts are still nowhere near as popular as training contracts with private firms. About 500 companies have permission to offer training contracts, but most tend to recruit trainees as and when they’re needed. As a result, about 3% of training contracts offered every year are in house.
Even though private practice training contracts dominate the market, the growth of in-house legal teams, and the subsequent rise of in-house training contracts, can be attributed to a variety of reasons.
First and foremost, it’s no secret that some of the top City partners command some very high fees. As a result, companies find themselves gawping at an extortionate legal invoice at the end of the month. Therefore, companies have established an in-house legal department, with the salary they pay in-house lawyers proving more cost effective than outsourcing their legal needs.
Another not-very-well-kept secret of the legal world is that City lawyers work long hours – like reallllllly long hours. 72-hour weekend stints aren’t unheard of, and it’s understandable that some lawyers seek a better work-life balance, especially when little tiddlywinks come running into the world. They also lookout for greater commercial insight, and working in-house allows for both of these. These two aims can be achieved by moving to an in-house legal team, and initially, in-house lawyers were those who had trained and cut their teeth in private practice. However, as business grows, so does the need for an expansion of the legal team. Et voila! In-house training contracts were born.
In-house training isn’t a cop-out, or in any way easier than a ‘normal’ training contract. You’ll still need top-notch academics, profound commercial awareness and an extremely impressive work ethic to cut it in-house at some of the top businesses in the UK.