By Khadijah Suleman
Law students often know what legal path they want to follow; many are seeking to pursue a career in private practice, for example law firms. However, there are many other opportunities that students need to consider, such as working in-house (i.e. within a company).
There are many differences between working in-house and in private practice. When working in-house, you tend to deal with one client: the company you are working for. This results in you being an integral part of the company and involved in helping to shape and develop long-term business strategies. Additionally, there will be a lot of teamwork and collaboration involved as you will be working together with other departments and business professionals within the company. In-house also includes more of a focus on the breadth instead of the depth of commercial legal knowledge. Instead of specialising within a specific legal area, you will be required to advise on different legal issues, for instance litigation, employment and more; in-house lawyers are ultimately all-rounders. Some in-house opportunities include the Government Legal Department, media companies (such as the BBC), compliance teams within banks, financial firms etc.
In private practice, solicitors are encouraged to specialise in a specific area of law since there is a division of labour within the firm or practice. A private practice solicitor earns a higher salary and is often provided with greater opportunities to rise through the ranks and progress further in their career. Moreover, working in private practice means putting your client’s needs first (even if that means working in the office until midnight). The driving force for private practice is ultimately clients, especially as solicitors, particularly those working at small firms, are supposed to secure their own clients to bring business into the firm.
Overall, both career paths differ in their own way. It all comes down to whether you are best suited to working in-house or in private practice.