Tamasin Dorosti answers some commonly asked questions by junior lawyers contemplating a move in-house.
There has always been pressure on in-house legal departments to deliver increasing value to their businesses.
Working in an organisation – whether it be public sector, local government, or a FTSE 100 company – as opposed to private practice requires a whole different mind-set and a completely different way of working.
Core soft skills
Of course, you will still need all the core soft skills, such as negotiation, drafting, communication, and advocacy skills, but you will need to utilise them in a different way to those who are in private practice.
Your communication and advocacy skills, for example, will be used to not only inform the business but, more importantly, influence it. You steer the business in a particular direction and, therefore, other departments need to understand, respect, and co-operate with the legal function.
As an in-house lawyer you will commonly need to co-ordinate various stakeholders from around the business and work with them to ensure all risks are identified and managed satisfactorily. You are there not only as a lawyer, but also as a business adviser, to provide solutions – not barriers – and to identify and manage the risks to the business.
As a result, you will find yourself involved in a whole realm of different issues. Ultimately, this comes down to having a good grounding in the fundamental basics of business and being able to recognise the commercial issues – such as those found around the supply chain, finance, and service delivery – as well as the legal ones.
The fact you are easily accessible by the business means you need to be very flexible to their demands as you will quickly be drawn into a whole range of diverse activities. Therefore, it is important to distinguish when you are adding value and when you do not really need to be involved, which can often be a fine line.
A key takeaway for transitioning to the in-house environment is to be alive to what is affecting the industry you’re working in and the current climate in which the business is operating. Once that basic understanding is achieved, you are guaranteed to find the transition a much smoother one.
Tamasin Dorosti works in the enterprise legal team for Vodaphone Group plc and is an executive committee member of the Junior Lawyers’ Division (JLD) of the Law Society
This article was first published by the Solicitors Journal on 7 July 2015, and is reproduced by kind permission.