Private Practice v In-House – How Do I Make that Choice?

We previously gave tips on the most important question you should be prepared for  during an interview, and in this post we will highlight the top 3 differences between working in private practice v in-house to help you take your legal career in the right direction. It is necessary that you become aware of the differences, so you can make an informed decision before deciding between going for an in-house or private practice legal roles. 

1. Salary and Career Progression

Typically, lawyers who are in the early years of their career will earn around the same salary in private practice as in-house lawyers (although junior in-house are less frequent even in the current market). However, as lawyers gain more experience, the differences in salaries between the two increase dramatically, and senior lawyers employed in law firms can now earn significantly more than those working in-house. Why is this? Well, in most cases when working in-house your long-term career progression options are more limited, particularly if you are in a niche team where progression is based upon the person above you on the ladder moving on. Modern law firms are now significantly more transparent about what you need to achieve to progress. Equally so the demand for successful and ambitious Associate and Partners remains high within the law firms so private practice lawyers can often engineer a more financially beneficial or a higher level role with a lateral move. 

 2. Clients

As a lawyer working in a private practice law firm, you get to have a wider variety of work and different clients on a regular basis. As an in-house lawyer, you have one client, who is your employer, and this will allow you to build an in-depth knowledge about this client and its industry. Furthermore, while private practice lawyers only see the short-term benefits of their work for the client, in-house lawyers oversee the entire legal strategy for their company. This means in-house lawyers get the added reward of seeing the long-term effect their legal advice has on the client. However, many lawyers find working in a law firm offers a level of diversity in terms of clients that cannot be achieved in-house.

3. Work-Life Balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance in the legal profession can be challenging although both in-house and private practice continue to make efforts to tackle this. According to Legal 500, in-house lawyers generally have a better work-life balance, as they have more freedom to manage their time and are not restricted by multiple client demands. It is also fair to say that many other industries have placed a greater emphasis on work/life balance in recent years.

While a career in law is unquestionably, not a 9-5 job, private practice lawyers recognise the need to be entirely flexible when it comes to their working hours, as they may need to meet tight deadlines or answer promptly to clients’ emergencies. In-house lawyers also face similar problems and are often required to ‘go the extra mile’, especially in smaller companies, it will be less frequent than in law firms.

If you would like help finding your next legal role, get in touch with us today, we will put our expertise to good use and find the perfect role for you.

Thomson Legal

With 20 years’ experience placing lawyers with leading law firms and in-house legal teams in Scotland & Ireland, Thomson Legal is here to assist you in taking the next step in your legal career.