In-house Training Contracts: Pros and Cons
To become a qualified solicitor in the UK, you need to complete a work experience placement known as a training contract. Candidates can opt to do their training contract either via the private practice or in-house training contract routes. The in-house pathway is much less popular, but has many perks that are worth considering. We have outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing an in-house training contract below.
What is an in-house training contract?
Through an in-house training contract you will be working within the legal department of a business or organisation rather than for a law firm. Instead of serving multiple clients, you will only be supporting one – namely your employer.
Even though there are fewer positions available than on the private practice pathway, the number of companies hiring lawyers into their legal departments is increasing year-on-year. Businesses with large legal departments are more willing to encourage candidates to complete their mandatory two-year work experience.
An in-house training contract – the pros
Law firms usually specialise in certain areas of law. As a solicitor on a private practice training contract, you will most likely be working with one aspect of law at any time with many different clients.
However, an in-house training contract could not be more different. Since you will be working in the legal department of your employer, you will be responsible for assisting your company with all legal matters - regardless of the area of law they may cover. Therefore you will be exposed to the different fields within the legal profession, giving you a more comprehensive training experience, which may help you to decide which area of law you may want to specialise in in the future.
As you are working with one client, you will become an integral part of the company’s operations. You will be able to see how legal decisions impact the firm’s trajectory and help it grow. Thus, throughout your placement you will gain an in-context understanding of the interaction between laws and businesses, giving you greater commercial awareness. Witnessing you and your company meeting your unique and shared objectives is a highly rewarding experience.
Additionally, an in-house training contract offers a better work-life balance. Legal firms have a notorious reputation for long hours which does not suit everybody. As you are working in conjunction with other non-legal departments and your company is not directly competing with other legal firms, there is a reduced pressure to work into the night.
In-house training contracts – the cons
Even though in-house training contracts come with more sensible working hours, private practice firms are able to offer you a more competitive salary – whether you are a fully qualified lawyer or a trainee.
While you are able to gain an exposure to different areas of law on an in-house training contract, you are only working with one employer. A private practice firm offers you the possibility to work and interact with a variety of different clients. On an in-house training contract you are reliant on your employer’s success and you don’t develop the skills necessary to recruit new clients. This is an essential skill to develop as a lawyer if you want to work in a private practice in the future, as legal firms need the continuous flow of clients to keep operating.
Finally, in-house training contracts are difficult to get. Organisations and companies need to be big enough to support their own legal department so that they are not reliant on external service providers. Within the UK, the public sector hires nearly a third of in-house solicitors. In fact, only 17% of lawyers in the country work in an in-house environment.
As in-house training contracts are becoming more popular, it is definitely important to recognise the wide array of benefits they offer. However, it is really up to you decide whether this law career pathway and lifestyle is the one for you.