john grisham

We are In-House Lawyers - Ask Us Anything

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I have read some of the very interesting threads but haven't seen anything on corporate secretarial roles; my previous legal practice experience has been corporate secretarial and corporate governance. My Q is are those (CS roles) typically combined with other in-house roles or do we have a different career path for them ? Thanks in advance for your response(s).

I think the CS role (for the parent pubco) often falls to the GC or one of his/her direct reports who are also lawyers (although that's not written in stone).  

 

Re general corporate secretarial and corp gov work (typically for subsidiaries), there are companies who do that work exclusively (on a global basis).  I'm not sure what qualifications they look for when hiring, but I suspect they would mostly be looking for paralegals.  

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Where I work, our GC is also designated as the CS, then there is an Assistant CS (a lawyer) reporting to him and overseeing a small staff of paralegals and admin people. His background is big firm corporate, but I imagine you could get in with relevant in house similar experience.

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Thanks JAGGERS and John Grisham. I see there's no way of escaping the initial biglawfirm experience. Had an articling exemption due to foreign practice experience. The route to biglawfirm appear to be severely constrained for lawyers like me.  

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Thanks JAGGERS and John Grisham. I see there's no way of escaping the initial biglawfirm experience. Had an articling exemption due to foreign practice experience. The route to biglawfirm appear to be severely constrained for lawyers like me.  

You never know.  Depending on the jurisdiction of your foreign experience (and any additional languages you might have) some in-house legals groups might have a unique need to get somebody who is familiar with that area/language - and that need may trump the desire to get somebody in with big law firm experience.  Sometimes in-house groups hire people in quasi-legal roles (eg. "contracts manager", etc.) where they aren't necessarily looking for lawyers.  If you can convince a company that you aren't over-qualified for one of those roles then maybe you could get your foot in the door that way.  Like I said, there's lots of ways to carve out a niche.    

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There's an ad for an assistant corporate secretary at Ornge in this week's ORs. It says they are looking for someone with 8 years progressive experience in a similar capacity.

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Any suggestion on how to get into in-house position as a new call who articled in private practice? Thanks!

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Much of the responses circle around practicing in "big law" for a few years and then transitioning into in-house. My question is, what about those who are in a specialized group within a bay street firm --i.e. not general litigation, or general corporate/capital markets? Is it more difficult to move in house from a specialized area of law (for example, trade and commerce, or insolvency?)

 

Thanks!

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It is more difficult in that there are fewer positions available, but at the same time there are fewer competitors when the right one does become available.  I would think, however, that it would be difficult to go in house from an insolvency practice, other than to a hedge fund or something like that...

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It is more difficult in that there are fewer positions available, but at the same time there are fewer competitors when the right one does become available.  I would think, however, that it would be difficult to go in house from an insolvency practice, other than to a hedge fund or something like that...

 

Heh, several of the in-house guys at the tech/services company where I spent my 1L summer had come from insolvency practices (except for the GC who had actually worked her way up from a small general practice). But one of the company's major lines of business dealt with PPSA registrations and the such, so it made sense that they had a specialized need.

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Is it best to try to diversify one's practice within corporate law to have a better chance of getting an in-house job? I have always wondered about this, because although I enjoy my practice very much, it is fairly specialized and although I am part of the "Corporate" group at the firm, I don't, for example, do any securities work or very much M&A work. Would that limit my ability to go in-house in the long run (I'm very junior)? I'd like to specialize and I see that specialization within my firm seems to be a good thing, but don't want to limit my ability to go in-house in the future.

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Is it best to try to diversify one's practice within corporate law to have a better chance of getting an in-house job? I have always wondered about this, because although I enjoy my practice very much, it is fairly specialized and although I am part of the "Corporate" group at the firm, I don't, for example, do any securities work or very much M&A work. Would that limit my ability to go in-house in the long run (I'm very junior)? I'd like to specialize and I see that specialization within my firm seems to be a good thing, but don't want to limit my ability to go in-house in the future.

It's tough to paint with broad strokes when talking about in-house opportunities.  When I was in "big law" I gained a specialization that was a bit of a crap shoot for in-house opportunities (just because of how things are trending generally).  But the company I now work for just happened to have a need for somebody with that specific skill set.  So you never know.  More than anything, getting a couple/few years under your belt and making strong connections (both in and out of the firm) are the things that will help no matter what.  If you're enjoying what you're doing then just stick with it and let the chips fall where they may when you want to make a move.   

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If you are a small in-house outfit of say 5 lawyers with no website listing of the lawyers, but through LinkedIn one is able to figure out who the lawyers are, do you think it is appropriate for someone to email/msg you via LinkedIn to ask questions about your job? What sort of questions do you think are appropriate to ask?

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I wouldn't find it unusual if someone did that to me. I wouldn't ask questions in an initial email, just outline how you found them, why you're interested in talking to them and ask if you could meet sometime. 

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Are you with the parentco or Canco? I'd find it surprising if Canadian GCs have this much of an international travel requirement.

Parentco. And not the GC.

 

Edit: and maybe I shouldn't be answering the same question I answered back in September. Jet lag is just so awesome.

Edited by Little Chicken Little
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I articled at a big firm in Toronto and did not get hired back. I now have an offer to go in-house at a bank (where I was seconded during articling).

 

Should I accept this position (even though I am interested in smaller-firm private practice) and keep looking on the side? 

 

On that note, does anyone know the rough salaries of first-year lawyers at smaller litigation or business firms? i.e. Dale & Lessman size firm. I'd like to know how they compare to big firms and in-house.

 

Thanks!

Edited by meninas

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I articled at a big firm in Toronto and did not get hired back. I now have an offer to go in-house at a bank (where I was seconded during articling).

 

Should I accept this position (even though I am interested in smaller-firm private practice) and keep looking on the side? 

 

On that note, does anyone know the rough salaries of first-year lawyers at smaller litigation or business firms? i.e. Dale & Lessman size firm. I'd like to know how they compare to big firms and in-house.

 

Thanks!

A bird in the hand...

 

I would take it.  Based on nothing more than numbers (i.e. way more private practice positions than in-house ones), it's generally easier to go back to private practice from in-house than the reverse.  Can't help you on the salaries question.

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Any interview tips for in-house?

Probably goes without saying, but I would research the hell out of the entity you're interviewing at and, depending on what level you're going in at, be prepared to answer some direct legal questions related to the business or the tasks you'd be responsible for.  This probably applies to fairly senior positions more than junior ones. I know senior folks who've been asked some really tricky corporate governance questions during an interview.  I think the trouble area for in-house interviews would be to say anything about wanting to go in-house for the work/life balance (it might give the impression that you're a 9 to 5er - which often doesn't work in-house).    

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