It’s probably fair to say that most Private Practice Lawyers have considered the in-house jump.
The chance to work for a global, recognised brand, the opportunity to allow your hidden commercial talent to come bounding through, clash head on or work closely with the firms you’ve spent hours applying for as a training contract hungry law graduate!
I certainly hear it on a daily basis here in the Middle East.
But when is the right time? Is there a right time? Are you too late?
It’s commonly known that most In-House Lawyers gain a few years post qualification experience in private practice to develop and harness the technical skills that an in-house role requires. These couple of years will also allow for professional development in general commercial awareness, client exposure and communication, decision making skills and just generally more self-confidence. You might also be one of the lucky ones to ‘get a taste’ by completing a secondment with a corporate client.
Most articles online suggest 2-6 PQE is around the right time. I tend to agree. Any later and you’re potentially on a Partnership track and the remuneration might be too attractive to leave behind. Additionally being this level of PQE suggests candidates would be easier to ‘mould’ into the new role, something the hiring GC/LM would consider.
So what about the Middle East market?
Naturally, in-house teams in the Middle East are much smaller and this can result in a number of things worth considering.
Counsel will often be responsible for large geographical areas of the MENA region with very little support, emphasising the importance of jumping at the right time, with the right experience. You might also have a direct line of report to London/New York/Hong Kong meaning there could be limited supervision on the ground.
The exposure to a variety of work is also naturally higher. This often leads to companies looking for Lawyers with a diverse skill set, capable of handling all issues that arise as well as compliance, risk management and legislation changes.
On a regular basis, you will be required to communicate and liaise with local authorities, government departments, external counsel and to instruct local Lawyers on any litigation matters. You must be a confident communicator and have a good understanding of local procedures.
There is much more opportunity in the region to become involved in the day-to-day running of the business as more of a commercial advisor, including regular contact with board members.
The jump can be a very rewarding one, but as with any career change, it’s vital to consider the timing and your own suitability.