The age-old debate between working In-House Corporates vs Law Firms has always been a tough choice to make and 2021 is bringing this to the forefront of Lawyers’ minds even further.

Many people question where their career should take them? Where would you learn more? Where is there scope of consistent growth or diversity?

Which is the better option for you?

There is no straight answer to this. Many people believe that work-life balance and flexibility come with working for a corporation. However, after the year that was 2020, many Law Firms are now taking this stance as well, and working from home or leaving the office on time is not as taboo as it once was.

In terms of remuneration there used to be a disparity between In-House and Law Firms, the high demand for Lawyers with all skill sets has reduced this gap and today skilled Lawyers in your Top Tiers and Boutiques are generally paid very similarly as In-House Counsel’s, this is based on PQE and experience. In terms of growth, you will have a long-term progression trajectory in a Law Firm with Partnership the long-term goal for many Lawyers.

When you move into an In-House position the progression opportunities are often restricted depending on the size of the team with many mid-sized corporates only having one Legal Counsel,  so very little room to grow. 

What’s the difference? – In-House Corporates VS Firms

The simplest way to describe the difference between the two is that an In-House Counsel has to be a jack of all trades (generally with a commercial spin) and a Law Firm Solicitor is more of a master of one or two.  An In-House Counsel generally advises on the day-to-day function and strategic direction of the business whereas a Law Firm Solicitor acts in the best interest of their clients who come from many different industries. In-House Lawyers are also being tasked with more regulatory and compliance work than ever before. At the end of the day, all Lawyers need to be focused and diligent. All need to be troubleshooters who can handle whatever comes their way. 

A number of Lawyers moving In-House often secure those roles due to being the main contact of a particular client so already have a good knowledge of what a potential employer needs. This also means that these roles are rarely advertised or open to the wider legal job seekers market.

A shift in the market

2020 and the start of 2021 had seen a shift in the market with a lack of Solicitors heading off on their OE’s and our highly qualified Lawyers heading home and snapping up many of the In-House roles in our top corporates, however, this has changed…. The brain drain is in full swing with people heading off to the UK and Australia and Kiwi returnees are now deciding to stick it out overseas. This has resulted in a change in the market and employees are now struggling to find both talent on both sides of the fence, which is of course great news for those that are on the ground in New Zealand and are looking for the next step in their career.  

As Gary Bloxham said a few weeks ago “It’s a candidate’s market! The intrinsic rewards that candidates are making decisions on are pay parity, working conditions (flexibility), and the organisation’s and team’s culture. However, extrinsic rewards are now coming to the forefront as candidates decide what is next in their career trajectory and what can an employer offer them in building on that experience.”

Over the last six weeks, I have placed three Lawyers in In-House positions and three Lawyers into Law Firms, the market is incredibly hot and the opportunities are out there. So what is best for you? And is the grass always greener on the other side of the fence?

If you are interested in chatting through the direction of your career please contact Stevie Doubleday on 09 930 9828 or sdoubleday@tylerwren.co.nz

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