Back to overview

LCN Says

Five reasons to become an in-house police lawyer

updated on 13 September 2022

Reading time: four minutes

Having gone through a fairly traditional route of training and qualifying into private practice, I never would’ve thought I’d be an in-house lawyer for the police. I started out studying law at the University of Birmingham and later secured a training contract at Trowers & Hamlins LLP off the back of a successful vacation scheme. After my training contract, I qualified at DLA Piper UK LLP as a real estate associate.

After my time at DLA Piper, I made the move in-house to West Midlands Police. I now practice in commercial property and commercial law. Below are some of my reasons for making the move in-house and the factors that keep me in the role:

  1. Varied work

Being the in-house legal function of any organisation allows you the freedom to delve into other areas of law and specialisms (within reason). Having come from a strong commercial property background, I was able to transfer these skills across to commercial work. Having a solid base in commercial property allowed me to have the basic skills for drafting, negotiation, client management and more, which has enhanced my ability in other areas of my career.

  1. Balanced lifestyle

Having the balance is extremely important and the lockdowns have shown that clearly. Being part of a public sector organisation and particularly in my area of law, I have dispelled the statement I so often used to hear before in my private practice days, “this is not a 9-to-5 job”. Well, in fact, yes it is. I would hasten to add that where there are busy periods and people no doubt will work beyond the contractual hours, but this is not the norm.

A large part of this culture shift is due to bills and chargeable hours. As in-house lawyers, we don’t charge the internal client in the same respect as you would in a private practice firm, so we’re not chasing targets or hours. Having spoken to in-house lawyers in other organisations, I’m also aware that some organisations don’t require lawyers to even time record.

  1. Exciting work

As West Midlands Police is the second largest police force in the country (second to London Met) – it covers a large geographical area. Nonetheless, the legal department acts for West Midlands Police and Staffordshire Police. As a result, we’re involved in a number of different and exciting matters. Some of the large-scale projects include the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 and Coventry City of Culture. Other interesting work can include:

  • media agreements for documentaries involving the police;
  • research agreements with universities; and
  • agreements with football clubs for policing.

       4. Different opportunities

Being in such a large organisation (much like a large private practice outfit) opens the doors to many different opportunities. Whether that’s various staff associations, recruitment drives, sports, training and a whole lot more. Being part of an organisation that isn’t a law firm, really expands your thinking around how it’s run, the different departments and decision making. 

  1. Motivation

Working for an organisation that doesn’t have legal services as the main function and profit as the main driver has been really refreshing. As a person who’s come from the private practice world, I’ve had to learn a new culture and way of working. Now my aims are aligned with the values of the police force, which include:

  • creating and maintaining the best possible relationships with my clients;
  • ensuring we’re supporting the force in delivering its objectives; and
  • creating the best possible relationships with the public.

Above are just a few of the reasons why so many people are making the move in-house, at all levels: entry, training, post qualified and senior levels. The in-house proportion of lawyers is around 30% of the profession – an ever-growing number.

So whatever stage you’re at in your career, it’s worth considering in-house and public sector opportunities.

Baljinder Singh Atwal is a solicitor at West Midlands Police, co-chair of the Birmingham Solicitors’ Group and council member of The Law Society. You can find Baljinder on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.