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A legal career in-house

The majority of Solicitors work in private practice, i.e. for law firms. However, many large companies and organisations have their own legal departments, employing their own lawyers and legal teams to undertake their legal work. Lawyers working within companies or large organisations are referred to as in-house lawyers. Many companies (including BT, EDF Energy and Vodafone) offer Training Contracts within their legal teams, allowing you to complete your training as a solicitor with a company, as opposed to a law firm.

It is also possible to undertake work experience within the legal departments of companies and organisations, with vacation schemes, similar to those offered in law firms to be found amongst the larger companies.

In-house Training Contracts are highly sought and opportunities can often be difficult to locate, as they are not as widely advertised as the places available in Private Practice. Being aware of what a legal career in-house entails, and knowing where to look for the opportunities is imperative.

Within this section of ULG you can find insider case studies and profiles of leading in-house solicitors, top tips on finding out about in-house opportunities and securing work experience and invaluable information on the key differences between a legal career in-house and that of private practice. We also have a comprehensive database of the companies currently offering Training Contracts and their contact details.

Check out our comprehensive list of in-house training contract providers and our Guide to the In-house legal recruitment market. 

Mary Appiah: Commercial Policing Assistant for Sky

What stage are you currently at in your education?

Stage 2 of the LPC- currently studying the elective modules.

What is your job role?

I am a Commercial Policing Assistant – My roles involves prosecuting commercial

premises who advertise and show sky sports without the use of a commercial

viewing agreement.

 

Describe what you do in your job on an average day?

- Identify premises for suitable legal action through interrogation of databases.

- Compiling case reports for civil and criminal action.

- Liaising with solicitors to ensure civil and criminal actions are successful

- Undertaking daily completion of data protection enquiries with 3rd parties

- Liaising with Sky Business Operation for information relating to commercial

contracts

- Providing timely and accurate reporting of litigation activities

- Ensuring soft copies of civil and criminal evidential case files are compiled, stored

and updated in accordance with current policies and legislation.

 

What key skills do you use for this job?

Organisational and Communication skills, attention to detail, data management

and reporting skills.

How has this role supported your legal career/applications for TC's etc?

It has helped improve my commercial awareness and decide which area of law

I would like to specialise in. It has also opened my eyes to some alternative legal

career options available to me once I have completed the LPC.

 

Kat Gibson: In- house lawyer for Coca-Cola

 

I am a four-year PQE solicitor working in house for Coca-Cola Enterprises Limited, a soft drinks manufacturing, trade

and marketing multi-national. I have worked in-house since 2007, having previously been at Nortel Networks; a

multi-national telecommunications company.  I am an employment specialist, and advise my employer on all

labour and privacy law issues across its GB operation.

 

My background

 

I took the traditional academic route through college and University towards the legal profession. 

I knew that I wanted to work in the law from a young age and this had always been where my interests lay. 

I read Law at the University of Southampton and graduated in 2001.  Having graduated, I took a year out in order

to work and save in order to be able to self-finance my LPC.  I undertook the same at the College of Law,

Guildford, starting in 2002. 

 

I finished the LPC in 2003 with a Distinction.  Having finished the academic stage of training,

I was keen to get to work as soon as possible.  I started my career at Paris Smith & Randall LLP, a medium

sized commercial firm in Southampton.  I worked as a paralegal for a few months, before commencing my

training contract with the same firm.  I qualified in November 2005, into the Employment Department of

Paris Smith.

 

Going in-house

When completing my training, I had not considered any other ways of practising law, other than in a private practice

environment. This was, in the main, due to the fact that I wanted to practise employment law and this is still fairly

rare in the employed sector.However, at around two years PQE, I became interested in expanding my knowledge base

and getting involved in more complex matters.

I wanted to get my hands on more transactional, corporate support, work; as well as more responsibility and

autonomy.  This was not immediately available to me in my current role.  I was not, at that time,

considering going to another law firm. I was also not considering in-house work, per se.  However, I saw

the position at Nortel Networks advertised, and it seemed to be a perfect fit.

I worked at Nortel from 2007 to 2009, providing employment advice across Europe, the Middle East and Africa

(EMEA). The role provided me with exactly what I was looking for, as well as making me a more risk-orientated,

pragmatic, commercial and strategic lawyer. In 2009, sadly, Nortel became a victim of the global downturn and

went into global insolvency. At that time, I left Nortel and joined Coca-Cola Enterprises.


Current work

As an in-house employment lawyer, I advise the business on all matters which affect its employees. 

This can include anything from dismissals and redundancies, benefits packages and pensions, collective

bargaining, restructures and the imposition of new working policies.

I also have a specialism in data privacy law, and act as Coca-Cola Enterprises’s Data Privacy Officer.

My role includes providing strategic advice to my internal clients, being involved in business decisions and

working on matters with issues and legal ramifications which I quite simply would not be doing in private

practice. In addition to the complexity and variety of the work I am getting, I am able now to provide advice

to my clients throughout a particular issue or project, and not just in snapshots. I can be involved in the

management of the risk for the company and be more proactive and less reactive.  I feel that I add value

to the company as a strategic business partner, rather than simply being a cost to it.