When it comes to work experience, every solicitor-minded law student spends hours laboriously perfecting their vacation scheme applications, undertaking pro bono work or bolstering their CV with extracurriculars. Sometimes overlooked, however, are companies that have their own in-house legal departments. This summer I undertook two placements with in-house legal departments, and in this blog I’ll outline the advantages of seeking out these kinds of opportunities, where to look and what you can expect from in-house legal.
My first placement was with the Nationwide Building Society, based at its head office in Swindon. Nationwide is the largest building society in the world and being based at their head office was a great way to get a feel for working in a corporate financial institution. Although it is vast, Nationwide House felt less overwhelming to navigate than the skyscrapers of London!
On day one, I was introduced to the team and given a rundown of what would happen throughout the placement. I was impressed with the structure of the week. We got to sit in with almost every department in the legal team, and there was always something for us to be working on. We got to chat with lawyers from different retail product areas and learnt a lot about the products themselves, and some of the challenges that financial institutions face. We also got to look at some litigious work to give us a flavour of the types of disputes that were dealt with in-house.
The most valuable part of the week was being able to talk to so many different lawyers. The departments took time to speak to us about what they did, their own legal journeys and gave helpful careers advice. As there was a small cohort on the placement, it meant that there was plenty of time to ask questions, and the experience was really tailored to what we wanted to discover. The lawyers that we spoke to had qualified in private practice and made the transition to in-house work, so they were in the best position to talk about the pros and cons of both. This meant that I got a lot of honest advice about private practice that I may not have got from a trainee at a private practice vacation scheme. A better work-life balance and being away from the hustle and bustle of city firms seemed to be a key motivation in making the transition. However, something that most also mentioned was how great it was to be able to see a project all the way through. In private practice you may leave a deal to change seats or work on small parts of a deal and never see the results. Being able to see the outcome of something that you are working on was mentioned as a rewarding part of working in-house.
My second placement was at Sky. I will start by saying that if you ever get the chance to visit or do work experience at Sky’s head office, take it! It is a fantastically designed complex, and it is really exciting to see how Sky brings elements of its media into its offices. You really get the impression that Sky wants its employees to enjoy coming to work. All of the people doing work experience were looked after by a dedicated team, and we had an induction, which was a great way to dispel first-day nerves. I worked with three different teams during my time at Sky and got to see some interesting, real deals that the teams had worked on. Again, I got to speak to successful lawyers who had transitioned in-house, and it was fantastic to be able to get their insights.
If you are interested in a career in the city, but nervous about heading straight into a firm environment, an in-house placement could be something to look at. There are HQs all over the country, perhaps even in your local area, and I found the experience a great insight into law in a corporate environment and not as intimidating as heading into the city can be for the first time.
So, in summary, some key positives of being in-house that came out of my work experience include: