It is some years since in-house was anything other than the fastest-growing community within the legal profession – and figures from the SRA show a doubling in the number of solicitors working in-house since 2000. One reading of this is that, over a period when commercial, regulatory and litigation risks have risen for all organisations, in-house lawyers are cheaper than their private sector peers.
Cost, though, goes a very small way towards explaining the shift in-house. Organisations are far more focused on managing risk than on cutting legal spend – and risk management, unlike discrete pieces of legal advice, is difficult to outsource. In both the private and public sectors, any lawyer working in-house has a useful ringside seat from which to observe the organisation’s activities.
That seat gives them a head start when looking at the timeliness and appropriateness of advice.
In time, many become ‘wise heads’ and, in an age when CEOs move on every three to five years, are possessed of key tranches of the corporate memory. When it comes to savings, in-house lawyers have developed increasingly sophisticated ways of delivering better value for money for their external legal spend.
Our most superannuated law firms have had to respond by working in collaboration with cheaper firms and LPOs, or even by setting up back-offices in lower-cost jurisdictions.
No wonder, then, that among the work to be increasingly brought in-house is advice of strategic importance. Many young, able lawyers will be taking note of all this – and planning their careers accordingly.