In-house lawyers are still trying to shake off the ‘second cousin’ perception.
Despite accounting for 21% of the legal profession, it appears in-house lawyers still can’t shake off the ‘second cousin to private practice’ perception no matter how hard they try.
One audience member told a meeting of the Law Society’s in-house division last night that ‘if you say you’re an in-house lawyer, some people think you’re not a real lawyer.’
This was one of a number of issues raised by the 100-plus audience when asked by the division’s committee chair, Sapna Fitzgerald, how the Society could help them.
In the US, the solicitor said, the general counsel was ‘absolutely there, on boards, the go-to person’, before calling on the Society to help promote the GC as a business person and potential board member in the UK.
Some wanted support on ways in which in-house lawyers can endear themselves to an organisation.
‘I learned going in wearing a tie and pinstripe suit makes you stand out,’ one audience member recalled. ‘People think you’re a lawyer and do not want to deal with you.’
Others talked about the loneliness of being an in-house lawyer. ‘The reason why I’m [at this event] is because I’m the only solicitor in my organisation,’ one solicitor said. ‘While I love my [work], I feel quite isolated at times.’
Not everyone considered the loneliness a bad thing. ‘I feel much closer to the business and much more interested in the business,’ one solicitor said. ‘It’s a refreshing change from private practice where you see how the business world relates to your client.’
‘I learned going in wearing a tie and pinstripe suit makes you stand out’
The Society’s in-house division was set up in 2013 but its committee was established this year. This latest move, Fitzgerald said, ‘demonstrates the Society’s commitment to our sector’.
However the division’s success, she said, ‘depends on engagement. It’s about making the Law Society relevant to in-house lawyers’.
Judging by the comments made during the course of the Q&A part of the evening, in-house lawyers have a lot to say. Now they have a platform to help shape the Society’s support or if they just want to connect with peers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monidipa Fouzder is a Gazette reporter