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Do companies need full time lawyers? What are the differences between being in law within a company and being in law at a law firm?

Hi! My name is Anina and I'm a high school senior interning at Career Village. One of my younger brothers is very interested in becoming a lawyer, and I just recently found out that you can be a lawyer and work at a tech company (and others, not law firms). Do you like working as a lawyer for a company? What lead you to that company? Did you practice law at a firm before this job or do you plan to after? I'd really like to learn more. Thanks! #law #lawyer #business-law #business-lawyer #corporate-law

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Brittany A.’s Answer

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Hi Anina,

You've asked some great questions! I will answer them based on my personal experience. Sorry in advance that my response is kind of long.

Yes, companies do need full-time lawyers. The legal profession is changing and more companies are hiring their own lawyers to save on legal fees instead of always hiring lawyers at law firms (a.k.a. outside counsel). These company lawyers, or in-house counsel, give companies advice on day-to-day issues like buying products and services. Companies definitely still use outside counsel for bigger or more complex legal matters like lawsuits or complying with new laws or regulations, but not so much for day-to-day operations.

In my opinion, that is the biggest different between being an in-house lawyer versus a firm or outside lawyer. Companies may hire in-house attorneys who can deal with general issues (a.k.a. generalists) or they may hire in-house attorneys who are experts in certain areas like litigation or transactions (contract negotiation). Depending on how big a law firm is, a lawyer can become an expert in one subject area (have a niche practice like technology law) or become someone with a firm knowledge base of multiple areas (like knowing about wills and estates and elder law issues because they can relate or overlap with each other).

I am no longer with my company but I really enjoyed working as an in-house lawyer. I worked as a generalist so I dealt with legal issues in different areas of law each day (insurance, contract, employment, privacy/data security). I liked it because I had a variety of things to work on and it kept my job interesting.

While many people start out at law firms and then go in-house at a company, I started out at a company for my first law job. Most companies tend to want lawyers who have prior legal experience, but there are some who want young lawyers so they can train them and have them grow with the company. I worked there because I like legal work but I did not want to go to trial. My job allowed me to practice without being in the courtroom and it was willing to take a young lawyer with little experience. Those jobs are out there but they can be tricky to find. It is always good to network in addition to doing regular job applications to hear about good companies that want to hire lawyers. Actually, always network and keep in touch with people you meet no matter your profession. It could put you in your dream job!

I hope this helps!

Thank you! This was really helpful info! Anina H.

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Alexandra’s Answer

Working at a law firm is a good way to get experience right out of law school because you can get training, work with partners and other colleagues and be exposed to a wide variety of clients and legal issues. When working for a company, you have the opportunity to contribute to the business strategy and direction of the company. You often work in a smaller team (the size of in house legal departments is generally smaller than law firms) and can have a depth of experience in what the company does. They can both be rewarding and many attorneys do both during their career.

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Jeff’s Answer

Hi Anina
Many (most) companies of any size require at least one full time lawyer, and some many more. There are quite a few differences between working at a law firm and as a company lawyer. For instance, at the company you will have one corporate client (the company) whereas at the firm you will have many (if you are good!). At the company, while you are still practicing law, one's approach tends to be more commercial as a partner of your client, whereas at the firm you may be less familiar and experienced with your client's business and may tend to focus on the purely legal aspects of the issue at hand. these are obviously generalities and won't be the case in all circumstances, but I hope it was helpful to your questions.

Great information you have shared here. It will be helpful Anthony Constantinou

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Anthony’s Answer

Many corporate lawyers are working in law firms, where they advice clients and manage business transactions, do negotiation, drafting, and review of contracts and other agreements linked with the business activities.

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Isabel’s Answer

Hello Anina,

Yes, I can say that at Insurance Companies in general you will find many lawyers that support the claims groups there, as well as lawyers who work on other things for the company like contracts for services needed.