What does an in-house legal team do?
In-house lawyers are more than just solicitors. From providing legal advice to getting involved with decision making, they play a vital role in the operation and success of companies. Here we break down what you would be doing if you opt to do an in-house training contract.
In-house lawyers - who are they?
Most solicitor candidates choose to do their two-year mandatory work experience with a law firm. During your placement in a private practice you will be working with a variety of clients, helping them with legal issues within particular areas of law.
However, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) also approves in-house training contracts as a means of completing your work experience and qualifying as a solicitor. As an in-house lawyer, you work in the legal department of a larger company.
Your only client for the duration of your placement is your employer for all legal matters, meaning you need to be able to deal with legal issues that cover many aspects of law. For this reason, in-house lawyers are seen as generalists in the legal industry, even though it is possible to specialise in-house. Many companies have specialists in things like property, data protection, IT/software, regulatory and corporate, for example.
But what would your responsibilities be as a member of an in-house legal team? Let’s find out.
What will I be doing?
As an in-house lawyer, you primarily deal with the legal matters of your company, or group of companies to which your employer belongs. Your overall objective is to give legal advice to your employer, which is part of the wider business strategy of helping the company grow.
This may involve reviewing whether the firm is compliant with ethical and regulatory standards. In addition to doing this, in-house solicitors also investigate how the company can effectively manage legal risk and cut corners within the boundaries of law. This in turn enables the company to increase its efficiency legally.
Your role as a solicitor allows the company to carry out enhanced risk management. In addition to having employees dedicated to assessing financial risk, the value of having a team of lawyers evaluating legal risk allows the business to have a more comprehensive strategy to operate more efficiently and thus increase its profits.
While in-house lawyers are vital to the firm’s prosperity, they are also the vital second line of protection in times of trouble. In collaboration with the PR department, they help to protect the reputation of the company by assembling their legal defence when accused of wrongdoing.
What will my other responsibilities be?
Being part of an in-house legal department means you have responsibilities beyond being a solicitor. As you can probably tell, in-house lawyers play an important part in the operation of the firm. Therefore it may be beneficial to have a background in business as you need to be commercially aware when giving advice to your employer.
Throughout your training contract it is critical for you to gain an understanding of the ins and outs of the company. From the sector it operates in to its profit margins, you need to know your firm like the back of your hand. Being the legal advisor to your employer, you are asked to participate in decision making processes as the company’s future business strategy will partly be based on your work.
What skills will I need to be a successful in-house lawyer?
Since you are involved in many aspects of the running of the business, it is important to possess good communication skills. In-house lawyers communicate and work together with other departments within the company to achieve shared objectives. The legal department also connects regularly with government regulators to make sure your firm is compliant.
As previously mentioned, business acumen can be very helpful for advising your employer, as well commercial awareness. Adaptability and creativity will also help with shifting work priorities and problem-solving.
As you can see, in-house legal teams have a variety of responsibilities, which makes it an exciting work environment to be in. From dealing with different areas of law to assisting your firm with decision making, in-house solicitors gain a holistic understanding of the legal industry, in addition to acquiring valuable business skills throughout their time working for their employer.