What is the difference between an in-house and private practice training contract?
Training contracts come in all shapes and sizes, but usually they can be classified as either in-house or private practice. The option you choose can have an impact on your future legal career, so it is important to know the differences. Our article will highlight the major discrepancies between these two types of training contracts, which hopefully will help you pick the one that is the best for you.
In-house and private practice training contracts – what are they?
Alongside completing the Legal Practice Course (LPC), in order to qualify as a solicitor in the UK you also need to complete 2 years’ worth of work experience via a training contract. This can be either an in-house or a private practice training contract.
Most candidates opt to do a private practice training contract, which involves working for a legal firm that supports a variety of clients.
However, as a trainee on an in-house training contract, you will be working in the legal department of a larger company rather than an actual legal firm. While it is a less popular pathway, participants certainly meet the SRA’s requirements on their training and it offers you the possibility to see how laws affect businesses in the ‘real world’.
We now know what the difference is between the two training contract options, but how will it affect your day-to-day working life? We will elaborate below.
Client vs clients
Working for a private practice law firm will mean you will have the opportunity to interact with a wide array of clients. You will be required to encourage potential clients to choose your practice to support them in legal matters. Throughout your placement you will be expected to deal with a variety of legal matters simultaneously.
On the other hand, as an in-house solicitor on a training contract, you will only be representing one client for the duration of your two-year placement, namely the company you work for. This will allow you to see the long-term impacts of the legal advice you give, which can be a highly gratifying experience. As an integral part of the company, you have the opportunity to be involved with decision making and the operation of the business. As a result, at the end of your training you will have accomplished much more than giving legal advice to clients.
Diversity in your work experience
Private practices usually specialise in specific practice areas. However, as in-house solicitors work with one client, they need to be able to assist their employer in all legal matters. This comprehensive training is ideal for those who are interested in many areas of the legal world or who are not sure what they want to specialise in just yet.
The skills you need and the people you work with
While as a private practitioner you will be surrounded by other lawyers and you will almost exclusively be dealing with legal matters, on an in-house training contract you may be required to have a background in business. Throughout your training contract you will be involved in the growth of the company, meaning it is advisable to be commercially aware, a skill which you can develop further throughout your training.
While communication is an essential skill for both a private practitioner and an in-house lawyer, working in the legal department of a company means that you will be expected to communicate clearly with other departments within the business.
Even though private practitioners generally earn more, the importance of meeting clients’ needs means that solicitors will often have to work longer hours. On the other hand, the working hours of an in-house lawyer are much more fixed as they work in conjunction with other departments.
These are some of the major differences between an in-house and private practice training contract. Whichever option you choose, it is important to note that one option is not better than the other. Instead, you need to select the pathway that meets your needs the best.