I’m back to give aspiring in-housers some advice.
Are you certain that the law firm life’s not for you? Have you done a client secondment and thought, 'Yep, this is less horrendous and totally worth the pay cut', only to contact recruiters and hear the same advice over and over again:
'Stay in private practice for at least two years'.
Welcome, my friends, to the 'two year rule'.
But, like all rules, it can be broken. I have a theory that a gang of cunning recruiters invented the two year rule to postpone the inevitable flow of solicitors in-house, thereby increasing their commission forever more.
Of course, you might have some concerns about the move. Perhaps you’re worried that by moving so soon you'll get less support and training in the early days of your career. It’s a reasonable concern, but at the same time, the standard expected of you in-house is lower, so things balance out quite nicely. What’s more, if you haven’t got a thick skin and the confidence to get on with things without sign-off, it’s probably best to start developing those skills as soon as possible (and there’s no better place than in-house).
Plus, there’s always Practical Law. If the company you're considering doesn’t have a subscription, run for the hills. You’re not a martyr.
You might be thinking, Two years, that’s not long right?'
Well, it's your life buddy. But you ain't getting those years back.
If I’ve convinced you to take the plunge then, rest-assured, you can move in-house at the end of your training contract and you can get a good job, particularly if you’re open-minded as regards the industry.
If you are moving in-house to be a general commercial lawyer (correct answer!) then the industry you chose will prove less key to your happiness than the ethos and size of the company. Let’s be honest, a contract is a contract, a warranty is a warranty, an email is an email - you get the jist. Pick somewhere with a good reputation and it will serve you well.
The key to moving in-house straight away is to sign up with one or two reputable recruitment agencies early on in your last seat and get used to studiously ignoring everyone’s advice, including the recruiter’s. They’ll tell you it’s super unlikely that anything will come up for an NQ. Ignore them and then pester them, it’s a classic combo.
What recruiters seemingly forget is that, relatively-speaking, in-house legal teams are poverty stricken. They are the poor nieces and nephews to their rich aunty law firms (it’s the best I’ve got). They can get you for cheaper than a two year PQE and that might well be their main concern.
You’ve suffered for two years, no need to go through it all again.
P.s. This is terrible advice if you want to be an in-house employment lawyer. There are usually only one or two employment lawyers in-house and so companies want people with experience. Sorry.