Starting a new in-house counsel job can be an exciting and challenging endeavour. As an in-house counsel, you will be part of a legal team that supports and advises your organization. This unique role comes with its own set of expectations, responsibilities, and opportunities.
The in-house counsel role has gradually evolved from a reactionary legal advisor to a vital strategic consultant, decision-maker, and proactive risk manager. In-house lawyers now work closely with executives across the organization in various capacities.
Ademola, who happens to be an in-house lawyer and a member of one of the numerous organizations of in-house lawyers at the time of this article, says he spends the majority of his time providing legal advice; he also spends the bulk of his time joining the board meetings to discuss board related matter. He mentions contributing to governance issues, strategy developments, and advising other executives on non-legal matters as some of his everyday tasks.
Twitter user @chidiesq when asked about transitioning from a law firm to an in-house lawyer, he gave the response below:
What to know before joining a firm as an in-house counsel
- Understanding the Organization: When starting a new in-house counsel job, you must understand the organization you are joining. Familiarize yourself with the company’s history, mission, values, and strategic goals. This knowledge will help you align your legal advice and actions with the organization’s objectives. Your priority should be understanding the company’s structure, key stakeholders, and departments you will interact with regularly.
- Relationship Building: Effective relationship-building is crucial for in-house counsel. You will be expected to interact with colleagues from various departments, including executives, managers, and employees. Develop strong working relationships with these individuals to gain their trust and establish open lines of communication. Collaborate with other departments, such as HR, finance, and compliance, to ensure legal compliance and support ongoing business activities.
- Become Vast in Diverse Legal Matters: You will encounter a wide range of legal matters as an in-house counsel. You will be expected to handle contract negotiations, intellectual property issues, employment matters, regulatory compliance, and more. Every day might present unique challenges, requiring you to swiftly analyse legal risks, provide sound advice, and develop practical solutions. Be prepared to juggle multiple tasks and prioritize accordingly.
- Balancing Legal and Business Perspectives: While this might not be a priority, one of the critical expectations for in-house counsel is to balance legal considerations with business objectives. While your primary responsibility is to protect the organization’s legal interests, you must also understand the business context and support its growth. This requires finding creative legal solutions that align with the company’s goals while minimizing risks.
- Continuous Learning and Adaptation: With the emergence of technology and Ai, the legal ecosystem is constantly evolving, and as an in-house counsel, you must stay updated on new laws, regulations, and industry trends. Adaptability is crucial in this role, as you may face unique legal challenges that require you to get creative and find innovative solutions. Expect to engage in continuous learning and professional development to enhance your legal knowledge and skills.s.
- Ethics and Confidentiality: You must always act as an in-house counsel in the organization’s best interest. Understanding that you are privy to confidential information about the organization, you must uphold the highest ethical standards and maintain strict confidentiality.
What are the primary responsibilities of an in-house legal counsel? A typical job posting, according to a posting on Indeed, will likely contain the following:
- To give accurate and timely counsel to management on a variety of legal topics (labour law, partnerships, international ventures, corporate finance etc.)
- To collaborate with management to devise efficient strategies for defence purposes.
- To specify company governance policies and regularly monitor compliance adhered to.
- To research and determine different risk factors regarding business decisions and operations.
- Apply effective risk management techniques and offer proactive advice on possible legal issues.
- Communicate and negotiate with external parties (regulators, external counsel, public authority etc.), creating relations of trust.
- Draft and solidify agreements, contracts and other legal documents to ensure the company’s full legal rights
- Deal with complex matters with multiple stakeholders and forces.
- Provide clarification on legal language or specifications to everyone in the organization.
- Conduct your work with integrity and responsibility.
- Maintain current knowledge of alterations in legislation.
- Any other duties as assigned by management
- Manage complicated matters with key stakeholders.
These and more are what it entails to be an in-house lawyer. It is important to note that several opportunities exist outside of law firms for lawyers, and being an Inhouse lawyer for organisations is one of them.