Becoming an in-house solicitor

Over the past 10 years, the in-house market has grown substantially and the perception of in-house roles has changed. Discover what support is available if you're thinking of becoming an in-house solicitor.

Most students aspire to the tradition route of qualifying – recognised training or qualifying work experience in private practice. 

But, with fewer training positions available and remuneration packages closing the gap with private practice, working in-house is becoming increasingly popular.

Over the past 10 years, the in-house market has grown substantially and the perception of in-house roles has changed.

It is increasingly common for companies to hire in-house solicitors or even establish their own legal departments, outsourcing legal requirements to private practice as and when necessary.

Many private practice solicitors, including high profile city seniors, are moving to in-house positions which offer equally attractive career prospects.

In-house roles are not simply about the provision of legal advice but also about understanding the business context and handling more strategic aspects of the business.

There are a variety of organisations that employ in-house solicitors, ranging from charities and local authorities to large corporations with many different levels of specialist roles.

Advertisements for in-house solicitor positions can be found:

  • on the website of the larger organisations
  • in the legal press
  • national newspapers, and
  • some job boards and with specialist legal recruiters

The number of solicitors working in-house

Statistics from our 2020 annual statistics report show that of the 5,626 training positions registered between July 2019 and July 2020, 8.4% of those were in-house.

Of the 149,891 solicitors with practising certificates over that period, 24% work in-house with the largest sector being commerce and industry.

Training in-house

A growing number of companies, including those listed in the FTSE100, are offering training or looking to formalise their training programmes.

They are increasingly growing their presence in the graduate recruitment market and often attend university law fairs to promote their training schemes.

Similarly, training opportunities can often be found in the public sector, whether with central or local government.

The SRA education, training and assessment provider regulations equally apply to in-house training.

You are still required to complete two years' full-time (or equivalent) work experience training.

For the Legal Practice Course (LPC), this will be a period of recognised training.

For the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) route this will be qualifying work experience.

The choice of seats for in-house training can be restricted compared to the traditional law firm training.

However, it is likely that a broader range of topics within these seats will be covered, as work is often passed between teams within an organisation.

To ensure that the training is comparable to that in a law firm and complies with the training regulations, some organisations will offer their trainees a secondment in a law firm.

Some of the larger organisations have set up arrangements with law firms where they swap trainees for their secondments.

This is not the case for all in-house training: many are completed entirely in-house.

With the wide choice of in-house training positions available, it is important that you do thorough research to make sure the training is suitable to your needs, offers what you want and is beneficial for your future career aspirations.

Some organisations offer their trainees full or part sponsorships for the LPC or SQE.

Funding and support are available if you are looking for other ways to fund your studies.

Training positions for those that have already completed or started the LPC or SQE are also offered by some organisations.

Though many organisations offer training that follow the normal annual application process with scheduled dates and programmes starting regularly, there are some organisations that only offer training positions on an ad-hoc basis.

In-house training positions can vary greatly depending on the organisation. The training programmes might also vary depending on whether you choose the private or public sector.

It is important to thoroughly research and find out as much as possible about the training programme beforehand to make sure the set up will develop you and your skills in your desired direction.

Undertaking your training and gaining your legal experience in-house does not prevent you from deciding to work in private practice in the future.

The inside knowledge and commercial awareness you acquire by dealing with legal matters relating to an organisation as opposed to a third-party client, combined with the vast exposure to business, are valuable skills that would be appreciated in private practice.

Finding a period of recognised training

Finding an in-house training position can be time consuming and difficult, as there are few opportunities available compared to private practice and the ones available are not as widely advertised.

Training positions tend to be advertised on the organisation’s own website rather than on central websites.

The SRA has a list of organisations that are registered to take on trainee solicitors; it can be requested directly from the SRA.

The list does not detail whether the organisation is currently recruiting for trainees.

Local councils and authorities sometimes advertise their vacancies in the legal press but mostly on their websites.

Be mindful that, although many online lists show organisations that employ in-house solicitors and are authorised to take on trainees, not all of them offer training positions on a regular basis.

You must be prepared to send off enquiries to multiple organisations or even to send speculative applications to organisations with an in-house legal department, but no training programme advertised.

There are no major differences in applying for training with an organisation compared to private practice.

It is important that you conduct research in the same way to ensure that your application is tailored accordingly.

Commercial experience is a very good addition to your CV, especially if acquired within the business area that the organisation you are applying to operates in.

Your main aim should still be to:

  • achieve excellent academic results
  • undertake relevant work experience and extra-curricular activities that will enhance your chances by making you stand out from the competition

The government legal trainee scheme offers opportunities for trainee solicitors within government departments.

Working in-house

In simple terms, working in-house means that rather than working for a third-party law firm you work directly for the client, looking after their legal needs..

There are various options available for an in-house career depending on whether you want to work in the public or in the private sector.

About the In-house Solicitors Network

Our In-house Network provides support and advice on key issues facing all in-house lawyers, working in the corporate and public sectors, not-for-profit organisations and charities.

In-house Solicitors Network is the Linkedin community for in-house lawyers working in the corporate and public sectors, not-for-profits and charities. Share best practice and address current issues and challenges in a supportive environment.

The qualification system for solicitors has changed.

In September 2021 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced a new route to qualifying as a solicitor, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

There is a 10 year transition period until 2031 for those already on the path to qualifying, those candidates can choose to qualify through the LPC route, or choose to do the SQE.

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