In-house lawyers are adept at managing structural change.
By any measure, the in-house legal sector is in a good place. Its numbers grow year on year and senior corporate counsel are extensively courted by private practice. Competition for many in-house vacancies is fierce. The days when moving in-house meant a lawyer had ‘failed’ are distant.
How did we get here? Common assumptions vary. Some note that law firms woke up to the fact that patronising the client who pays your fees is bad politics. Maybe young lawyers realised that the narrow range of cognitive skills that took one to the top in a City practice were not ‘all that’. And in a serious economic downturn, private practice was suddenly a less stable place to be.
But here’s one to add to that list. Listening to attendees at the latest Gazette roundtable, it became clear that none had been providing sanctuary for lawyers disconcerted by traumatic changes in private practice. Most had a narrative of radical changes wrought to meet a crowded field of major challenges on a tight budget.
But that process of practical and structural adjustment has not produced the levels of angst, or doubts about their ‘model’, that has attended ‘mirror’ events in private practice.
The rest of the profession may have something to learn from the way change is managed in-house.