If In-House Counsel Does All The Work, Will Anyone Want To Be In-House Counsel?


Photo: AP

One of the side effects of the recession is corporations doing more of their legal work in-house. We’ve heard about it nearly as much as we’ve heard about alternative billing.First, a recent survey suggested it’ll be in-house hiring that picks up in the next year. And today, the ABA Journal reported on a panel discussion of chief legal officers where the take away was that in-house groups are building up their capabilities.

Before we delve into the possible negative outcomes of this, let us note that we are sure no unemployed lawyers, or employed lawyers looking to go inside, would turn down one of these prime in-house positions. (In fact, the Journal noted the Best Buy GC’s comment that BigLaw layoffs have flooded the market with talent.)

But if in-house counsel is going to start doing more of the work that used to be sent out to tireless firm drones, what would be the point of leaving your firm job to go somewhere where you’ll potentially do as much work and be paid less?

That is not to say that in-house people do not already work hard — of course they do. But anyone we’ve ever known who has interviewed for an in-house position is recruited at least partially, if not largely, on the “better lifestyle” draw.

Doing more work in-house — the drafting, the researching, the Godforsaken document review, takes time. A lot of it.

Many of in house counsel already make fine money, but the mid-level associates who want to make the change generally understand they’ll take a pay cut. But they do it so they can eat dinner with their kids or, in the case of one of our law school friends, attempt to spend more time with models.

So if in-house people are really going to work more, they’ll need to be paid more. And the hamster wheel begins…

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