By Elizabeth Smith
As a former large-firm litigator, I used to spend my days preparing and arguing motions on behalf of corporate clients; taking depositions; evaluating venues, witnesses, evidence and probabilities of a given verdict. On rarer occasions, I spent time preparing a case for trial and doing what I could to give my client the best defense possible in the courtroom. The work was challenging, exciting, and always intriguing. But after 12 years in the trenches, I was starting to feel restless. Th
e demands of the job were taking their toll on me and my family. I was ready for a change.
About six months ago, I did something many litigators wouldn’t even think to do: I took a job as in-house counsel.
Instead of actually litigating in the trenches on behalf of my current employer (a national insurance company), I manage litigation from in-house. I work closely with outside legal teams to make sure they have what they need to litigate on our behalf successfully. In effect, I’ve switched sides: I’m now the type of corporate client I previously served.
For me, this has been a great career move.
If you’re a litigator who’s struggling with the demands of military life, or you’re simply bored and looking for a change, here’s why you should consider going in house.
Reason #1: Litigation Is Too Limiting
As a litigator in private practice, I was geographically bound. I had to be licensed in Ohio, I could appear in court only in Ohio—in fact, my whole professional life was in Ohio. Frequent moves and/or overseas assignments would have been out of the question.
I was also bound by my firm’s steep billable hour requirements and by court dates that didn’t allow flexibility when it was most needed (for example, when my husband left town on orders).
Managing litigation in house is an entirely different story. The job can be done from anywhere, no matter where or how often you relocate, provided you find the right employer. You often don’t even have to be licensed in the state in which you work.
Reason #2: In House, Litigation Experience Is Valued and Valuable
Large companies are frequently sued, making litigation a big-budget item. They hire legal teams across the country to defend cases, but corporations struggle with the unpredictability involved with litigation budgets and communicating with outside counsel.
There’s a huge need for in-house attorneys who have worked with such budgets in the past and can manage outside firms accordingly, but also hit the ground running. I believe my previous litigation experience, above all else, is what got me hired for my current position.
My prior litigation experience grants me credibility with the outside litigators I manage. They know I understand the intricacies of the process and the challenges they face, which makes our working relationship both congenial and effective.
Best of all, once you’ve served as in-house counsel, your experience and knowledge are highly transferrable. No matter the company or industry, or whether you’ve worked in a particular vertical, you’ll be a great in-house candidate. And employers will be happy to talk to you.
Reason #3: Being in House Has Its Own Rewards
What I love most about this job, apart from the freedom and flexibility, is that I’m still working in the litigation arena (albeit from a different angle).
Not only that, but I have plenty of opportunities to cross into other lanes, so to speak, by assisting my fellow in-house attorneys in a variety of boardroom areas: compliance, human resources, regulatory areas, and more.
For restless litigators everywhere, and for military spouses in particular, going in-house really can offer the best of all worlds.
Have you ever considered working as in-house counsel?
Check the MSJDN Jobs board to see if the right opportunity might be there for you.