When budding commercial lawyers consider their career in practice, or how they might acquire the elusive training contract, the focus on large commercial firms is natural. However, to focus only on commercial training in its typical sense is to deprive a future trainee of a goldmine of experience.
Hundreds of companies within the UK are registered to offer training contracts. Therefore the scope of opportunities is huge. Given that many overlook in-house experience as a route of training, a trainee may be competing with fewer peers for a place. However, it should be noted that training contracts provided by companies are less consistently offered in comparison to commercial firms, given that in-house legal teams tend to be small and tight-knit in nature.
Nevertheless, the variety offered by potential in-house experience is incredible. Companies registered to offer training contracts include Amazon, BBC, Burberry, Google, Sainsbury’s, Mercedes, McDonalds, Warner Bros and numerous football clubs. During my in-house work experience, my enthusiasm for commercial law was reinvigorated. It is surprising how working within a business you are passionate for can change the way you see aspects of your academic work. Law is much more interesting in reality after all. So why not see how a working-business perspective changes your outlook; looking after the legal needs of a company you feel passion for is a powerful incentive.
I also found a wide breadth of work to be inherent within in-house work. Some areas of law clearly affect a business more than others, such as contract and employment. However, an in-house lawyer may have to address any legal issue which confronts the company. I found myself accompanying my seniors in dealing with some peculiar issues, taking me out of the office on occasion for site visits.
In-house experience also allows a trainee to see how their role affects a business from start to finish. Rather than providing advice and moving on to the next case, an in-house solicitor will be present to see the positive repercussions their hard work has for their employer first-hand. I found that being committed to one cause created a great atmosphere of teamwork within the office. The office itself was full of not only legal-heads, but also individuals who were purely about business. This mix was refreshing, creating a dynamic of different personalities with varying skills, experience and backgrounds.
Also, in-house experience offers an abundance of commercial awareness. Understanding how the world of business works is key if you are considering private practice, given the focus on providing a client-led service. Working in-house provides the opportunity to understand how legal work relates to a wider context. This allows a future lawyer to understand the thought process of a business which may be similar to that of a future client. The opportunity to develop legal and business knowhow simultaneously is priceless, and learning about new forms of enterprise every day is exciting. This is especially the case if you would like to broaden your horizons outside of a legal environment. However, being thrown in at the deep end is a concern often expressed; this being the reason for many solicitors practicing privately before moving in-house.
This brief discussion only highlights some of the advantages and disadvantages of considering the pursuance of a career or work experience in-house. Make sure to research your favourite company and see what they have to offer. Also, in the future you may want to pay more attention to the in-house pages of your Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook!
This blog post was written by James Warnock. James is currently studying the M Law degree at Northumbria University and is working as a student advisor for business and commercial law within its Student Law office. On graduation he hopes to secure a role which will allow him to apply the law-based skills he has acquired within a commercial context, whether this is in-house, in private practice or in a wider business context. He aspires to work alongside unique and passionate forms of enterprise.