In House Lawyers
An in-house lawyer is a lawyer who is employed by a company, corporation, or other business entity. An in-house lawyer’s only client is their employer even though they may do many different kinds of work that require them to work with other people and entities. The actual work an in-house lawyer does is dependent on their employer’s needs as well as the kind of business their employer runs. An in-house lawyer’s work must be consistent with the mission and goals of their employer’s business.
A lawyer is someone who has a law degree. In the United States, lawyers who work in law firms typically have licenses to practice law in the jurisdiction that they work in but someone who only has a law degree but no license can only call themselves a lawyer. A lawyer that is also licensed is called and attorney but in the US, we use these terms interchangeably. To become a licensed attorneys, lawyers need to pass a bar exam for the state that they practice law in. A lawyer may only represent clients in court if they have a license to do so.
In-House, Private and Public Lawyers
There are many, many different kinds of lawyers in the United States. One way to distinguish between kinds of lawyer is by who their employer is. An in-house lawyer essentially only has one client, the company, corporation or other entity that employs them. A private practice lawyer is considered an employee of a law firm but private practice lawyers usually work with many different clients that hire the law firm to represent them. There are also lawyers such as public defenders (PD) and district attorneys (DA) that are employed by the courts.
In-House Compared to Private
When people are trying to decide between applying for a job as an in-house lawyer or in a private practice, there are aspects of each that may be more appealing to different lawyers. While different law firms can vary greatly in what they do and how they do it, most private practice lawyers work for a variety of clients. They will work on a day to day basis with paralegals, secretaries, other lawyers, and other support staff, and work for a particular client for the amount of time it takes to get their legal needs taken care of. An in-house lawyer technically only has their employer as a client but this does not mean that an in-house lawyer always works alone. They will likely work with more than one department, and with different managers and other leaders in their company.
Another difference between in-house and private practice lawyers is the kinds of skill sets each kind of job utilizes. Private practice lawyers tend to specialize in a particular area of law and will likely have one or more niche specialty areas within the broader specialized field. In-house lawyers often have a wider variety of jobs and tasks compared to lawyers who are employed by private law firms. Private practice lawyers and in-house lawyers are likely to work with each other on occasion, for example, an in-house lawyer may need to look to a private practice lawyer for their expertise in a particular area of law their client is involved with.
Much of what an in-house lawyer does on a day to day basis is dependant on their particular employer and industry.
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