Corporate lawyers are in demand. Corporate lawyers are in demand across all industries. Those with in-house experience are particularly sought after by companies that want the corporate skillset and need a lawyer who already understands what it means to be in-house. That being said, law firm corporate attorneys are also in demand due to the training that those lawyers have received. In particular, lawyers who have spent time at large, well-reputed law firms specializing in corporate and transactional work are desirable in this market. Many General Counsels started their career as corporate lawyers in Big Law, and as a result, they often favor lawyers with that training and background. Corporate lawyers can include lawyers with a focus on financing and/or securities work, and we have seen an interest in those types of lawyers as well. For instance, the General Counsel for one of our clients started his career as a securities lawyer at a large law firm. He values that training tremendously, so, when he was looking to hire a Corporate Counsel, he wanted someone who had securities training even though the position was not focused extensively on securities work. Corporate lawyers are valued for their attention to detail, their ability to negotiate and their capacity to handle the time pressures that come with transactional work – assets that prove to be useful when transitioning in-house to a company.
Corporate lawyers who want to go in house must recognize that commercial contracts are part of the deal. Every day we speak with law firm attorneys who are seeking to transition their practice in-house to a company. Lucky for corporate lawyers, they are in demand for in-house positions and are enjoying market attention in their job search. One caveat that the corporate lawyer looking to go in-house must realize is that most in-house positions will involve some level of commercial contracting. If you are seeking your first in-house position and you have less than ten years of lawyering experience, then it is very likely that the first in-house position you secure will require a significant amount of time drafting/reviewing and possibly negotiating a wide variety of commercial contracts. Sometimes this is a bitter pill for well-trained, well-pedigreed M&A lawyers to swallow because they really want to work on large deals. In fact, many of our clients tell us that one of the biggest hurdles they see in law firm corporate attorneys going in-house is that the attorneys are not enthused about or accustomed to handling a large volume of commercial contracts. Even the in-house positions that are specifically targeted for M&A lawyers will often involve some commercial contracting, so corporate lawyers looking to go in-house need to embrace that. Highlighting any commercial contracting experience on your resume is as important as highlighting the high-profile deals that you have handled.
Corporate lawyers with strong M&A experience can break into new industries. Many law firm attorneys are frustrated with their in-house job search as they learn that it is very difficult to break into specific industries. Even in-house lawyers who want to transfer into a different industry can find that such transition is difficult to make. Corporate lawyers with strong M&A skillsets seem to have an advantage. We have placed several M&A lawyers at companies in which they had very little experience with the specific industry. For example, we placed a seasoned M&A lawyer from a large law firm in-house with a specialty pharmaceutical company. He had not previously focused his practice on life sciences, but his experience working on a few M&A deals for pharmaceutical companies sufficed as industry experience. The core skill of being a deal lawyer is really what they are seeking. When companies decide that they need an M&A expert, they are often willing to look outside of their industry and hire a smart, well-trained M&A lawyer from Big Law, or a great M&A lawyer who is in-house in a different industry. Of course the preference is still to hire someone with industry experience, however, we have seen first-hand that many companies will think outside the box when it comes to hiring a sharp deal lawyer.
Corporate lawyers should be eager to gain commercial skills. In addition to being a fantastic corporate lawyer who understands how to run and manage deals, a good in-house corporate lawyer will recognize the need to understand the commercial side of the business. Our clients want corporate lawyers who can see the bigger picture and have an interest in learning the nuts and bolts of the business while adding bottom-line value to the business. These lawyers cannot run deals in a vacuum without learning to interact with sales, marketing, and other commercial departments. In life sciences companies, these corporate lawyers will be interacting with medical affairs, compliance and market access teams, in addition to sales and marketing. These lawyers must take the time to learn the company’s business, products and customer base, so they can add value and render pragmatic, business-minded advice. For example, one of our pharmaceutical company clients is looking to hire a corporate lawyer who has strong M&A training, but also has an interest or experience in handling commercial and regulatory work. Further, many corporate lawyers set their sights on ultimately transitioning into a business role and the best way to do that is to be a top-notch corporate and commercial lawyer – capable of assessing business opportunities and potential strategic alliances, advising on the best way to advance the company and then executing the key transactions.