A corporation has to keep track of many duties, and one of those is legal matters. Legal teams are vital to the company's managerial processes and cannot be easily dismissed. This department’s efficiency can significantly affect the company’s employment, policy, and regulations.
For this reason, many businesses in the US have chosen to go for in-house legal counsel. It has become a high-demand job in the law industry. If you want to get into in-house counsel jobs, this article will explore all its requirements, responsibilities, and more.
What Does an In-House Counsel Do?
Many people are confused about an in-house counsel’s role, and understandably so. It is different from other legal jobs because it is performed by a specific employing company, rather than the usual law firm. To have a complete grasp on this difference, here is a rundown on what in-house counsels do.
Duties of an In-House Counsel
An in-house counsel has a definite list of duties, such as the following:
Providing precise and updated advice to the company, especially about legal matters concerning their business processes, products, and services. Moreover, assisting the company in making final decisions and creating new company policies.
In-house legal jobs require creating, modifying, and negotiating business contracts and legal agreements. They also include taking part in the company’s legal safety net.
Double-checking and ensuring compliance at all levels. Every law and business regulation have to comply with the company’s policies.
An in-house counsel role involves conducting assessments, giving honest feedback, and participating in administrative paperwork. Companies handle a lot of information, and it is a part of your duties to make sure it is done right.
Educating a company about legal compliance rules and risk management. A part of in-house counsel duties is designing and executing a complete legal training program for employees.
Establishing clear communication with senior-level staff members in the company and trusted third-party professionals, such as an external counsel.
No matter if starting with entry-level in-house counsel jobs, an in-house counsel will have to update their knowledge about legislation from time to time. Fulfilling this duty allows them to give trustworthy advice that might affect the company's business. Doing research and staying updated is a vital part of in-house counsels’ responsibilities.
Types of Work of an In-House Counsel
Establishing a law department for an organization has become a common practice in the industry. Some companies go for a full team, while others prefer flexible and project-oriented individuals. To acquire more knowledge about this topic, here are the types of in-house counsel jobs in the US:
Attorneys are the leading players in the in-house general counsel jobs. They comprise 67% of a full in-house legal department and are supposed to be competent for primary law practices. In-house attorney jobs include representing a client, providing accurate legal advice, and working autonomously.
In recent times, hiring paralegals have become a cost-efficient way to get legal help. Although they are less formalized than state attorneys, they can accomplish essential tasks such as conducting in-depth research and drafting legal documents.
The demand has grown and become diversified for in-house counsel jobs. NYC, for example, is open for various legal positions, such as legal secretary roles. With a strong background in litigation, research, and file management, they are qualified to assist a general counsel.
General Administrative Support
In-house corporate counsel jobs require substantial administrative work. For this reason, counsels also hire general administrative support. Examples of such roles are a document coder, a legal word processor, and a legal receptionist.
Work Environment of an In-house Counsel
In-house counsel jobs are different from working in a law firm as they depend on the employing company. The following section will tackle the full details of what it is like to work as an in-house counsel.
Injuries and Illnesses
Working in-house can become a productive aspect for many. The working conditions are usually set in a safe indoor environment. However, counsels may sometimes need to travel to different locations, such as clients’ homes, courts, or other business places.
In terms of medical benefits, in-house litigation jobs are usually insured by an employer. That includes full healthcare options with dental and vision plans. A company should also take care of insurance in case of emergency and accidents.
What you see in popular media might not be similar to reality. In-house counsel’s working hours are typically demanding. It is not as fancy as it seems, and most of the job happens outside a courtroom.
The usual working time is 8–10 hours, but it can extend to more if the work demands become higher. Many full-time in-house counsel positions demand working more than 40 hours a week. In fact, it is common to see in-house counsels continue their work outside the office. This scenario is due to the nature of the job. Practicing law is more focused on the completion of goals than on counting the working hours.
How to Become an In-House Counsel
Whether you are a counsel looking to advance to senior in-house counsel jobs or a fresh graduate going for an entry level, it is never too late to become hired as an in-house counsel. Here is a detailed lowdown on how to become an in-house counsel.
Essential Qualities of an In-House Counsel
Every location can have different legal job requirements. For instance, in-house counsel jobs in DC can be different from jobs in other states. However, all of them have the same high standards. Getting considered by a company means you have to prove the following traits and work ethics.
The understanding of commercial and corporate law
The employing institution should rely on your skills and perspective. For that reason, you should have a complete understanding of the laws and regulations. Do not hesitate to stay up-to-date with the recent changes in the law.
A good lawyer is committed to learning and understanding regulations. If you are doing junior in-house counsel jobs, you should comprehend the company's mission and business strategies. Get to know the business organization you are working for, and have a solid awareness of commercial matters.
Strong social and reporting skills
A great lawyer has a strong instinct for establishing reliable connections. This aspect is mostly applicable for in-house counsel positions. They are supposed to connect with the employing company and build a good working relationship.
Reporting and presentation skills are also crucial for this position. It is a role that requires you to deliver accurate information and wise advice. Moreover, having a robust and confident stance can help you gain positive rapport within the workplace.
Excellent flair for negotiation and drafting
The role of an in-house counsel is to accomplish peaceful negotiations rather than dramatic confrontations people see on TV. As mentioned before, it is not an entirely glamorous job. It is all about reaching a great compromise between two parties.
Exercising this trait can help you gain a good reputation for your work. Having a flair for negotiation and drafting means that you always lean toward logical discussions backed up by researched facts.
Able to explain complex legal matters in understandable terms
Aside from building strong connections, you should be able to explain the law. It is a trait sought by in-house counsel recruiters, especially when faced with colleagues who are not in the law industry or barely know how the law works.
If you can expand upon the law with non-law professionals, then your general duties will become lighter. For example, planning and delivering a law training program for employees can be problem-free since there is no need to explain everything several times.
Able to work independently
Remote in-house counsel jobs are focused on research, negotiations, and other processes. Due to this scenario, it is often required from lawyers to work in an autonomous position. Whether you are working with a full team or by yourself, you should perform your duties persuasively.
For the most part, those doing in-house counsel jobs can set up their everyday tasks and goals without consulting a supervisor first. They do not need a constant focus to ensure they deliver high-quality work. If you want to get into this role, you should be familiar with being out of your comfort zone.
Ready to work in a competitive space
Because of the role of providing legal advice and assistance, many will see you as a leader. You must be up for this responsibility. Before you jump to in-house counsel roles, consider that the law industry is a highly competitive space.
However, at the end of it, it is an excellent job. You will grow professionally and discover unique aspects of the work that is never witnessed anywhere else. It is an enriching experience that will push you to become better.
In-house legal positions usually require a strong academic background. It is entirely reliant on the position type and the title you want to pursue. The requirements are usually focused on college degrees in corporate law and passing the state bar examination.
For example, becoming qualified for in-house counsel jobs in Los Angeles can take around seven years of education. It consists of four undergraduate years and three years at law school. At law school, most states will require you to complete a Juris Doctor Degree, accredited by the American Bar Association.
Most lawyers are also encouraged to undergo private practice to gain experience. It is a necessary period of learning and adjustment before you go full-time. Fortunately, many training contracts are available in-house.
Licenses, Certificates, and Registrations
For those considering in-house legal counsel jobs, there are two factors concerning proper licensing — getting a license in both your office location and the states where you do the temporary practice. Those who want to work in more than one state need to pass the bar examinations for each state.
Moreover, your education does not stop at college. Lawyers should always be in tune with the new legal changes as they can affect their work. In house counsel recruiters, especially those working in international areas, will recommend lawyers to update their knowledge every one to three years.
There are also certification programs available in every state, such as the ACC In-house Counsel Certification Program. It is a 25-hour training course for successful in-house legal workers.
Career advancement for those engaged in entry-level in-house counsel jobs is attainable, as stated in recent statistical findings. Attorneys usually start as associates before moving up in the legal hierarchy. Eventually, some legal professionals move to other large corporations or start their legal practice.
There are a variety of in-house counsel titles in the industry. Depending on the role seniority, certain working experience is required for each title. In a fast-paced and ambitious industry, many companies put their trust in highly experienced legal professionals. It has been reported that very few in-house lawyers are hired right after their college graduation.
According to recent studies, the in-house counsel jobs salary is lucrative. In the US, it ranges from $189,407 to $260,205. As mentioned before, this profession requires long working hours that should be compensated.
Moreover, the overall median yearly salary of in-house attorneys is $223,580. It has also been reported that lawyers who run their practices earn less than those who work with business corporations and law firms.
The future for in-house legal jobs is bright, according to research. Many corporations in the modern age have decided to invest in this department due to convenience and efficiency. Here are more details on why this career choice might be the best for you.
While the competition is high for job seekers and in-house counsel recruiters, the job itself has remarkable advantages. According to general statistics, many in-house lawyers find these positions more satisfactory than their prior experiences.
An example of such an advantage is the zero existence of billable hours. While it is a measure of someone’s productivity, billable hours can make legal workers frustrated and annoyed with the job. In contrast, in-house counseling provides more stability in their schedules. It doesn’t have a billable hour quota, leading to a better balance between work and life.
An in-house attorney job is a significant milestone for many individuals’ legal careers. If you are looking to shift career gears and pursue professional development, an in-house opportunity might be your chance. After all, the lawyers’ overall employment will rise to 6% in the upcoming years, according to a recent study.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it mean to be an in-house counsel?
The in-house counsel job description is pretty straightforward. It means that you are tasked with the business company’s legal matters. Examples of such tasks are giving practical legal advice, dealing with legal documents related to business processes, and more.
At its core, it is a leadership role. You will be expected to learn the company’s ins and outs and the laws and regulations affecting it. It is a crucial responsibility since the counsel’s legal decision can have a massive impact on the corporation and its employees.
How to get an in-house counsel job?
An in-house counsel position is usually sought after by tons of legal professionals. To gain a hiring chance, you have to prove that you have a strong educational background and loads of practical experience.
According to research, it is rare for fresh college graduates to acquire an in-house role at a business corporation. If you are looking forward to one, it is best to focus on private practice first. Doing so can highlight your job application in the talent pool.
What is the difference between an in-house counsel job and general counsel?
In terms of labor and employment, in-house counsel jobsare substantially different from general counsel jobs. They have similar legal duties, but the main difference is that counsels are hired by employing companies.
In-house legal professionals are usually focused on legal matters connected with the business. They take part in the company's legal affairs. On the other hand, the general counsel jobs are not related to the company. However, their legal advice and assistance can still apply to business.
What does counsel mean in a law firm?
In-house counsel jobsare usually for those who already have certain legal experience. A counsel is an attorney who has a relationship with the company, but they are neither employed nor partnered with it. This title can be utilized by experienced lawyers who are undergoing a career shift.
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