Business pressures too much for private law firms

A growing number of lawyers are seeking to leave behind private practices in favour of corporate counsel roles, as the pressure to generate new business distracts them from their primary duties, according to one legal consultant.

“I think over the last five to 10 years there has been a significant increase in in-house roles and a number of those people have come from significant positions in law firms,” Joel Barolsky, of Barolsky Advisers, told My Business’s sister publication, Lawyers Weekly.

In his view, such roles are becoming more attractive as firms increasingly expect partners to focus on revenue generation.

“Being a partner in a big firm becomes more around the business of law than the practice of law – people go to in-house roles because they feel they can still master their craft as legal practitioners, perhaps without the same pressures and expectations around building a business,” he said.

In addition, corporate roles tend to offer greater flexibility, as well as leadership opportunities.

“That's an attractive proposition – to become a leader and manager with a legal perspective rather than just being a specialist lawyer. That's why some have gone [down] that path,” he said.

At the same time, more companies are looking to create in-house roles, with many hiring a general counsel for the first time.

“There's also been a demand where organisations have created these roles because they've seen an in-house lawyer can add significant value to their business,” Mr Barolsky said.

Given most corporations expect to hire a fully qualified, experienced lawyer – rather than a recent graduate – firms become the main target for in-house recruitment.

“[Companies] generally don't hire grads and then train them up. They generally hire people mid-career – so law firms are their primary hunting ground for recruitment,” he said.

“They learn their basic skills within a law environment and once they've learned those, they shift to in-house roles.”

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