In-house Counsel Jobs – Everything You Need to Know (Job Openings Inside!)
If you want to learn more and look for in-house counsel jobs, then you are in the right place! See what the advantages and drawbacks of being an in-house counsel are!
What do in-house counsels do:
The most important aspect of being an in-house counsel is to understand the business. Be patient. It may take around 4 months to know everybody’s roles and how they interacted.
Having weighing the options of which course of action to take, the in-house counsel need to make a recommendation.
Why companies need in-house counsels:
Superficially, in-house lawyers can save costs if hiring the services of external legal firms is greater than the compensation of an in-house lawyer or a legal team.
However, sometimes even with in-house lawyers, a company still needs outside legal assistance. Having experienced, expert in-house counsels is the best way to control external legal costs.
In-house lawyers work with business teams, which can help the teams achieve performance goals more swiftly and promote integrity the company. In-house counsels can also speed up management decision-making processes.
2. Increase management options
The highest position an in-house counsel can obtain may be “head of legal” but they can also become the management of the company, or even CEO.
At many firms, the in-house counsel has replaced the law firm senior partner as the primary counsellor for the CEO, hence becoming a core member the company’s management and participating in making business decisions for the company. Therefore, if the company is looking for a new CEO or a manager, they will consider the staff in the legal department.
3. Reduce legal risk
First, increasing regulation demands companies to review their legal risks.
Second, an in-house counsel should be able to detect the company’s problems quickly and guide the business away from them, while external legal help are more likely to hear about the problems after they have reached a level of severity.
Different kinds of in-house counsels
Some in-house counsel act as a one-man legal team, while tech and hospitality giants like Google and Marriot International, or investment banks like J.P Morgan, have legal teams or legal departments.
If you are the only in-house lawyer in the company, you will be in charge of everything. If your team is a large one, you will be able to specialize in an area, for example trademarks or employment.
Pros of being an in-house counsel:
1. Legal teams are smaller and less hierarchical
In a law firm, there are so many associates and there can only be a few partners. By moving in-house, you can avoid the politics and drama.
2. Work hours fewer and more regular
Generally speaking, in-house counsel jobs has more regular and fewer hours than law firms, because in-house lawyers don’t need to keep time sheets and don’t have billable quotas.
3. Easier prioritisation
If you have watched Suits, you would probably have watched an episode in Season 5 where Jessica has to choose between defending her client and meeting with her most important client to persuade him not to change law firm.
As a lawyer, you will have lots of conflicting time demands – every client wants to be your No.1 priority. However, as an in-house counsel, you don’t have to choose – you only have 1 client, which makes task prioritisation much easier.
Drawbacks about being an in-house counsel:
1. Fewer chances of promotion
Though less hierarchical, chances of promotion tend to be limited. The highest position in private practice would be partner, while the highest position you can obtain as an in-house counsel is Head of Legal.
2. Less money
Compensation as an in-house counsel is usually less than your law firm contemporaries. The disparity increases the more senior you are. For example, in UK, the Head of Legal would be £180,000 pounds, while a partner at a Top 50 law firm in UK is on average more than £500,000
3. You will be valued as a cost
When you are an in-house counsel, you will be valued as a cost of the business rather than a driver of the business as a lawyer in a law firm.This can weigh heavily on you psychologically.
Companies may want to squeeze as much value out of the in-house counsel as possible, giving you even more workload than when you were a lawyer, for example.
4. Job instability
Companies may merge, or decide to outsource legal work cut costs, restructure or relocate. When they do, in-house counsel jobs may become redundant.
5. Becoming less marketable
It is easier to move from private practice to in-house than vice versa. The more time you spend as an in-house lawyer, the less marketable you are to law firms who will think that you have lost client contacts and temperament to bill.
6. Thin infrastructure
The company you work for as an in-house lawyer may not be so generous as to give you a secretary. You may have to share a secretary with a few other people. Also, your company may not subscribe to useful legal publication or database.
How can I be an in-house counsel?
1. Post qualification experience:
Generally, at least 2 to 6 years of post qualification experience.
Specialization helps. For example, being an in-house counsel for investment banks would require banking and finance regulatory and litigation experience.
Take the job requirement from Wells Fargo Bank as an example: “Good technical knowledge of markets and relevant laws (securities, insolvency, tax, etc.) with respect to capital markets, securities, derivative, structured finance and similar products” –
Another example is a specialization in employment law and you can advice the Human Resources department on handling personel matters, like grievances, disciplinary and performance issues, equal opportunities, diversity, restructuring and redundancy
More things to consider:
Do you want to switch jobs because you want to escape private practice.. or law itself? Because by moving in-house, you will still be practicing law.
There are groups for anything in Hong Kong and in-house counsel is no exception. The HKCAA is an association for in-house counsels in Hong Kong, and it has an alliance with the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), a global bar association for in-house counsels. If you would like to lean more about in-house counsel jobs, head to these two websites for more information.
Best senior in-house counsel jobs in Hong Kong
- Citibank – Senior Counsel, Litigation and Regulatory Investigations – Asia Pacific Legal
- Wells Fargo Bank – APAC Managing Counsel – Lending
- Morgan Stanley – APAC Conduct Risk Manager and Employment Lawyer, Vice President
- Morgan Stanley – Lawyer – Institutional Equity Division, Vice President, Hong Kong
- Marriot International – Senior Director, Attorney
- Marriot International – Vice President & Senior Counsel – Compliance (Integration)
- HSBC – Associate General Counsel, Private Wealth Solutions – Legal
- HSBC – Senior Legal Counsel – Global Legal
- Bank of China – Legal Advisor
- UBS – Legal Counsel, Wealth Management