In-House Counsel Job Description
This In-House Counsel job description covers the fundamentals of an In-House Counsel career, including responsibilities, requirements and average salaries. If you are a Private Practice Lawyer thinking about making the move in-house – or are soon to qualify and wondering about the difference between in-house and private practice – read on to find out more.
What is the difference between In-House Counsel and law firm jobs?
Broadly speaking, Lawyers and other legal professionals can be separated into two groups depending on their employer. In-House Counsels – also known as Legal Counsels or In-House Lawyers – are the type that carry out legal work directly for their employer, as opposed to Private Practice Lawyers who earn money for their firm by working on behalf of multiple clients.
Where do In-House Counsels work?
All In-House Counsels are lawyers who work directly for a business or organisation, but the specifics of each Legal Counsel role vary greatly depending on their employer. Businesses of all sectors and sizes require legal advice and risk management, so In-House Counsels may find themselves working as part of a team of 30 lawyers for an international media plc but could equally be the sole in-house legal advisor of a start-up fintech.
The different in-house roles
There are several different roles within an in-house legal team. Depending on the size of a company and the money available to spend on legal, some of the below roles will not be present in all in-house teams. Similarly, some of the below are senior positions that are natural progressions from an In-House Counsel role.
- In-House Counsel
Known also as a Legal Counsel or In-House Lawyer, an In-House Counsel provides their employer with quality, accurate and relevant advice on the whole spectrum of legal matters that apply to the business and their services or products. In-House Counsels are often just one member of a larger legal team and report to the General Counsel or Head of Legal.
- Sole In-House Counsel
Similar to an In-House Counsel in the advice they provide to their employer but different in the sense that they operate as the only lawyer employed by the business, Sole Counsels must often come up with smarter and more innovative approaches to working and problem solving as they handle all aspects of legal.
- Sole Regional Counsel
Also referred to as Sole Divisional Counsel and much like the Sole In-House Counsel above, a Sole Regional Counsel is a lawyer who, while part of an organisation’s larger legal team, operates as the sole adviser in a specific location, office or division.
- General Counsel / Head of Legal
While often interchangeable job titles, if a company has a General Counsel and Head of Legal, the GC position will be more senior. The GC or Head of Legal is the chief lawyer of the legal department of a company and oversees a broad role identifying company-wide legal issues, advising senior executives and managing the other in-house lawyers.
- Chief Legal Officer (CLO)
Despite having similar roles, the crucial difference between a General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer is the scope of their position. While a GC is exclusively concerned with the legal function of the business, the remit of a CLO will be far broader – viewing the work of the legal department in terms of how it intersects with the objectives and performance of the wider business. CLOs report into the CEO and usually have more direct access to the board of directors than a General Counsel.
How much do In House Counsels earn?
According to our 2017 Audience Insight Report, In-House Counsels earn an average of £81,515 per year. This will of course vary according to location, sector and demand.
Responsibilities of an In-House Counsel
As In-House Counsel you can expect your daily duties to include:
- Providing accurate, relevant and timely advice to your employer and other members of staff on a variety of legal topics that relate to the business sector and their products or services.
- Drafting, reviewing and negotiating various commercial contracts and agreements.
- Managing and mitigating legal risks by designing and implementing company policies and procedures.
- Ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations that apply to the business.
- Promoting legal, compliance and risk management best practice throughout the company.
- Communicating with and managing any third-party bodies such as external counsel or auditors.
- Designing and delivering legal training to the business.
- Staying up-to-date with changes to legislation, particularly in relation to laws, rules and regulations that directly affect your business and specific industry.
- Liaising with senior members of staff.
In-House Counsel qualifications
Employers usually expect In-House Counsel applicants to be fully qualified lawyers who also have a strong university degree in a relevant field; in-house jobs for Paralegal applicants do exist but are not as common.
In-House Counsel skills and experience
- Sound understanding and knowledge of commercial and corporate law.
- Depending on the seniority requirements of the role, you may be asked to have a certain number of years’ experience as a commercial lawyer working in-house or in a leading firm.
- Strong communication and presentation skills.
- Excellent negotiating and drafting skills.
- Ability to build and maintain strong professional relationships across the business.
- Ability to communicate complex legal issues and risks in terms that non-legal colleagues can understand.
- Ability to work in a highly autonomous role.
If you are a strong and talented Commercial Lawyer currently working in a law firm and are missing the feeling of belonging with a company – plus wanting to forget about time sheets and frequently working overtime – a career in-house could be for you. Check out our In-House Counsel job description and then search and apply for the latest In-House Counsel jobs on TotallyLegal.