This article is part of a series exploring how to develop a career in-house and the opportunities that it can offer.
Photo by Анна Галашева
In-house vs Private Practice
Not that long ago in-house training contracts were seen as risky for fear of not providing trainee solicitors will all the skills they need at the start of their careers and most in-house lawyers had spent at least the first 6 years of their careers in private practice working in corporate or commercial departments. However, in-house legal departments offer a huge scope for work covering a range of different legal areas where they are usually under-resourced requiring small to medium sized teams to work under pressure and manage with little to no secretarial support.
With this in mind, it means that junior legal team members are given lots of responsibility early on, are usually the main point of contact in the team for queries from other departments and have some decision making authority under supervision. This means that they develop lots of knowledge and grasp concepts and skills needed quicker in order to perform in their role, compared with some traditional trainee solicitor roles in private practice where there is arguably a lot of secretarial support and supervision even up to around 3 years' PQE.
Over the last few years since the enactment of the Legal Services Act 2007, there have been in-house training contracts, usually within large organisations with the opportunity to do a 3-6 month secondment with an external law firm, although these were very rare previously, we are now starting to see the legal jobs market open up in-house training contracts in every sector.
How to obtain in-house training contract
As someone that qualified in-house, I often get asked how did I obtain an in-house training contract. There is no one way approach, such as with a law firm by completing an application form and going to assessment centres but there are a few options which I have listed below:
Paralegal to Trainee Solicitor role - this is one of the most common ways of getting an in-house training contract which you would typically start after around 1 year of being a paralegal. It helps you to establish yourself within the team so that when you start training you really hit the ground running. You can find these roles advertised on most jobs boards.
Paralegal roles - not all paralegal roles are advertised with a training contract and that is partly because most organisations won't be able to make promises that early on due to budget constraints however, you can still record all of your work as Qualifying Work Experience under the new SQE route which means you would be able to qualify even without the trainee solicitor job title.
Straight into a training contract - if you have already built up experience and do not want to go down the SQE route then some organisations advertise for training contracts on their website. The downside to this approach is they won't always be on jobs boards so you would have to research the types of sectors and organisations and keep checking their website.
Some alternative business providers ("Agency") also offer a trainee schemes where you are placed into interim roles as a trainee and work with different organisations but you are employed by the Agency. Accutrainee for example, has been running this scheme for a while and Flex Legal have just launched a similar scheme.
Networking - speaking to people and creating a connection with them could also land you an in-house training contract. If you are able to talk about your interest in an in-house career with someone who has already developed their career they could offer you an opportunity or will likely know someone that could.
Social media - has a huge amount of information and some people post jobs so it's always good to keep a look out on there whilst also developing your personal brand!