Your guide to In-house Training Contracts
Most aspiring solicitors or any fresh graduates eye to work on big and prestigious companies. The allure of big name, big company, big opportunities, and big salary is compelling. Hence, most of them aspire to go to a more traditional route - that is to complete their recognised training in a big firm and work among the elite law firms, also known as the magic circle. However, applying in these big firms is pretty competitive. You need to have a solid CV and of course experience before you to even get a chance for an interview.
Since competition in these big firms is pretty stiff, and the training positions available are limited, why not consider working in-house? Working in-house has recently become quite popular since it has become fairly common for companies to hire in-house solicitors or to establish their legal departments. The in-house private practice also offers attractive career prospects.
Instead of going straight to applying for an In-house training contract, one of the best things you can do to get an In-house training contract is to work in private practice first for a couple of years. Develop your business acumen and understand how companies make business decisions. This will allow you to contribute more to the company when you get your in-house training contract.
What is in-house training contracts?
The training contract is a compulsory recognised practical training in a law firm. This is the last step in becoming a qualified solicitor. Now, in-house training contracts refer to in-house legal teams that offer training contracts to aspiring solicitors.
What is in-house law?
In-house law departments are found in many big businesses and organisations who have their law team or law department instead of commissioning outside firms to handle their legal matters.
There are two common ways to join in-house departments. One is the qualified solicitors who are recruited from practice. While another way is to be part of the junior pool who applied for training contracts.
What do in-house lawyers do?
In-house lawyers are responsible for looking after the legal needs of the organisation they are part of. In-house roles are not simply giving advice on the legal matters involving the company.
Otherwise, this job includes an understanding of the business context of the organisation and administrating some strategic aspects of the business. The work assigned to in-house lawyers vary depending on the need and nature of the business as well as the size of the legal department.
For example, if it is a big multinational that you will work in, you could deal with employment and commercial related legal matters as well as trading agreements and possible litigations the multinational is having.
In other cases, you may work on transfers agreements, acquisitions, sponsorship deals, mergers, and others. In-house lawyers work with contracts and must be knowledgeable with corporate and employment laws.
Working as one of the in-house lawyers is nice to consider because for one they only work with a single client, and that client is their employer. It would be easier compared to handling one client after another, and one case after another.
Though late nights at work cannot be avoided sometimes, it does not mean that you would breathe and live your job. Understanding the diversity of your task as an in-house lawyer would be easier since you only have one company to study unlike when you have a client to client assignments or when you work for private firms.
How do in-house training contracts differ from the normal training contracts?
Most solicitors do their training in private firms. Hence one major difference between training contracts and in-house training contracts is the opportunities. Finding out opportunities for in-house training can be quite tricky. Those who are eyeing in-house training should be alert and must eye-out opportunities when the come. Whereas if it is the normal training contract, most aspiring trainees know that the deadline for submission for application for private solicitors is on 31st of July.
Regarding pay, In-house training contract might not pay as much as compared to working in legal firms. However, the opportunity to learn and grow is significant, and promotions and pay improvements will be based on meeting outcomes and targets instead of the number of hours you have worked on a project. Plus, many companies operate using a pay scale, so your pay is not directly correlated to the number of hours you have worked. So as you grow with the company, your pay grade will also go up along with the pay scale.
Skills you need to be successful for an In-house training contract
The skillset that you need when working In-house is a bit different since you are working for a corporation instead of a law firm. As such, your first task is to understand the business you are joining. Learn about its culture and processes. Understand how the business fits in the macro picture. When you have a good understanding on how things work in the corporation, then that is the time you can give legal and strategic advice.
Another skill that you must develop is a communication style that goes well with their culture. Businesses prefer to be concise, and they do not want to see things just from a legal perspective. So get right to the point on how the legal intricacies of the situation will affect the business, whether regarding revenues, costs or risks.
Also, you will be dealing with different people of different backgrounds, so you have to be a good team player and be able to work with different cultures and technical background. You’d likely work with people from marketing, finance, and even operations unlike if you were working in a law firm where everyone has similar legal backgrounds. So take this as an opportunity to learn from them as well as them learning from your expertise.
The organizational structure for many companies tends to be flatter than the one in a law firm, so this means there are fewer opportunities for promotion. However, if you have an open mind and are willing to learn, getting an In-house training contract would give you significant experience and leverage for your next career move after it.