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lawschoolisdone

In House Career Challenges

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Hi all. 

Have some career challenges I'd like input on.

I'm a junior lawyer that has moved from private practice to an in house position. I am the only lawyer in the organization practicing a certain type of law in Canada and didn't realize how challenging this would be.

I feel completely over my head and lacking experience in nearly every task. I don't have anyone to turn to in the organization to seek guidance, and I am thinking I was (1) hired for a job I'm not qualified for or (2) the company thinks I much more experienced than I actually am, and (3) I left private practice too early into my career, unfortunately into a position where I have no mentorship.

Does anyone have any comments or input?

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Three pieces of advice. Though note, all come from the perspective of someone who doesn't practice in-house. That said, I do practice in an area of law where just about everyone is out on their own to some degree, often without much experience, and so there's some cross-over.

1. To the greatest extent possible, develop a wide network of people who you can ask stupid questions. The more you spread it out, the less you are relying on any one person. You can avoid depending too much on one person for favors, and you can also avoid giving the people you ask for help, once in a while, the impression you are absolutely clueless.

2. Join professional associations, subscribe to publications, go to conferences, and actually use all of those resources. If you work for a company that's depending on you in this area you practice, they should see these expenses as necessary and appropriate. If they don't, that's their problem and not yours. You need to meet with someone and correct that, because if you don't the problem will get worse and not better.

3. Similar to the above, ask for (demand if needed) a budget for outside legal counsel. Your organization may feel that by hiring a recent call they have eliminated their need for outside legal costs, but if they feel this way that's stupid, short-sighted, and again it's an argument you need to win now or it'll haunt you for your entire tenure with this employer. Favors may get you part of the way, but there will be times when you need an hour or two of experienced legal help to put you on the right path. It's entirely reasonable (and probably unavoidable) that lawyers you are consulting in this way will expect to be paid. You need a budget to pay them. If your employer believes you should know everything on your own, it's their foolishness that's the problem and not your inadequacy. Even a veteran lawyer needs outside counsel sometimes. To expect that a recent call wouldn't need a budget for this is ridiculous.

Hope that helps.

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1 hour ago, lawschoolisdone said:

Hi all. 

Have some career challenges I'd like input on.

I'm a junior lawyer that has moved from private practice to an in house position. I am the only lawyer in the organization practicing a certain type of law in Canada and didn't realize how challenging this would be.

I feel completely over my head and lacking experience in nearly every task. I don't have anyone to turn to in the organization to seek guidance, and I am thinking I was (1) hired for a job I'm not qualified for or (2) the company thinks I much more experienced than I actually am, and (3) I left private practice too early into my career, unfortunately into a position where I have no mentorship.

Does anyone have any comments or input?

you mean you are the only person in the organization who practices in that area?

or do you mean you are the only person IN CANADA who practices in that area? if so, woah...

Edited by law4sho

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 (1) hired for a job I'm not qualified for or (2) the company thinks I much more experienced than I actually am, and (3) I left private practice too early into my career, unfortunately into a position where I have no mentorship.

1) Yes and no. Your experience isn't unusual for in-house. Often you are asked to work in areas of law you know nothing about. But that doesn't mean you can't learn it, so perhaps you're not quite "qualified" for it in the sense that you don't know much about the area, but you are qualified in the sense that you have the capacity/capability to learn it.

2) Probably. What I found in house is your clients don't care how many years of experience you have when they come to you. From their perspective, a lawyer is a lawyer. 

3) That might be the case. It's not the end of the world at all though. It's just that now it's incumbent on you to find mentorship and ways to get around the fact that you don't have the law firm resource of other associates and partners to show you the ropes. What I did, was I would study the areas of law that I wasn't that familiar with in my free time. This means in the evenings or when there was a lull in my day. Then, when a task or file came up related to that area, try to do as much of it as you can, and then run your work by external counsel to get their take on it, and learn learn learn. The other thing you can do is if you are unable to do any of it at all, ask external counsel but be in communication with them as to how to do the work. The next time something similar comes up, you have more of a running start.

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Know who your client is. Know your law society ethical obligations inside out and learn how to protect yourself.

There might be situations where your internal stakeholders want you to be the person to say YES despite the answer being NO and that they already know the answer is NO.

There might also be situations where the stakeholders will not take NO for an answer and if so, you then have to quit; however, this might be hard to do if you need that income to pay off loans.

Know that there are crooked people (other lawyers included) out there who will not hesitate to throw you under the bus...

 

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