What it really takes to become an in-house lawyer

Transitioning from a firm to an in-house legal role can be a difficult adjustment, a recent survey has found.

The 2015 In-house Report produced jointly by the Australian Corporate Lawyers Association (ACLA) and Corporate Lawyers Association of New Zealand (CLANZ), has found that transitioning from a firm to an in-house legal team is no easy feat, with 62 percent of respondents indicating that the transition takes at least 12 months. Within that, eight percent of in-house counsel said that the transition takes more than 24 months. 

Although technical legal ability is essential any lawyer, general counsel must do more than simply focus on the intricacies of the law when working in a commercial environment. 

Chief among the essential attributes that private practice lawyers moving into in-house positions must develop is influencing skills, with 99 percent of in-house lawyers surveyed agreeing that it was an essential skill for GCs. This was followed by s
trategic thinking and the ability to translate the complex into simple communications, which were endorsed by 97 percent of in-house lawyers.

Broad business understanding and commercial nouse were also among the additional skills that survey respondents said former private-practice lawyers need to succeed. 

Eighty-eight percent of survey participants rated specific legal knowledge related to the organisation's operations as necessary to the role, while 80 percent agreed that excellent technical legal skills were a must for general counsel. 

Lower down the list of priorities were leadership training (64%), complete independence (64%), financial acumen (47%) and education and experience in non-legal fields. 

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