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Private practice or in-house? Finding the right legal work environment

updated on 05 April 2022

When thinking about working in the legal industry, you are often faced with lots of decisions. Should I be a barrister or a solicitor? What type of firm or chambers should I apply to? What type of law do I want to practice? But one question that is often overlooked is: private practice or in-house?

I was faced with all these questions when I was studying and decided I wanted to pursue a career in law. Although, one thing I didn’t grasp till later was how important it was to think about the working environment and the people I would be working with.

The solicitor route

After studying law at university, I went on to do the Legal Practice Course – so yes, I had decided to pursue a career as a solicitor.

For those of you qualifying via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) visit LCN’s SQE hub for the latest updates and advice.

I then trained and qualified at an international law firm in London. During my training contract I saw how the type of environment you are in can impact your work and your enjoyment of it. Through the rest of this article, I will talk about my experience moving from private practice to in-house, and two areas to think about when trying to find the right legal environment for you.


When applying for training contracts and internships be sure to pick firms that align with your values. What’s the firm’s culture like? Does it fit with your personality? Doing a vacation scheme allowed me to see and experience first-hand the culture of the firm and how I felt working there. Even if you are unable to work at a firm before deciding on training contract applications and offers, try to attend law firm events where you can meet with and speak to people that work for the firm. 

Find a list of law firm open days, presentations, insights days and more via LCN’s events page.


When thinking about the legal environment you want to work in, remember it doesn’t always have to be in a law firm.

When we think about becoming a solicitor our immediate thought and assumption is that all lawyers work within law firms.

However, solicitors can work in law firms (private practice) or legal departments within companies (referred to as working in-house). During my training contract, I completed a secondment at a bank which I thoroughly enjoyed. It enabled me to see an alternative environment in which I could be a solicitor.

A few years after qualifying I decided to move to an in-house role and I haven’t looked back. I have been working in my latest in-house role for more than five years. The transition has given me the opportunity to work in a completely different legal environment. So, once you’ve determined whether you want to qualify as a barrister or solicitor, remember to consider whether you would want to work in private practice or in-house, too.

For more information on working in-house you can listen to the LawCareers.Net podcast episode, in which I talk about the differences between working in private practice and in-house, plus lots more.

Working in the legal industry provides so many options in terms of work and experience. Make sure you are choosing the right environment you want to work in by looking at the culture of the organisations you apply to and deciding whether you are better suited to working in a law firm or in-house. 

Annabel Akintomide is an in-house lawyer in the financial services industry.