Relationships matter, and I was glad to be of service to a former client. Many law firm attorneys are hired in house as a result of this attorney-client relationship...
Landing an in-house position does not begin with finding a job post on indeed.com or LinkedIn. You should start working toward your in-house position before you are even certain that you want to leave your law firm, or you know where you want to go. Unless you have experience that is in high demand, you will need to find another way to stand out. Otherwise, you will be one of many intelligent and quite capable attorneys looking to go in-house.
If you are a business litigator as I am, you will need to be even more resourceful. It is a definite advantage to be a transactional attorney. I am now a senior corporate counsel - litigation attorney at Farmers Group, Inc. as a result of three different things that you can hopefully turn to your advantage as well.
First, it is really about who you know.
I had two large cases for Farmers Insurance about 15 years ago that went to trial with Farmers winning both cases. I liked and respected my client contact at Farmers, and stayed in periodic touch with him. I would occasionally hear from him with some question or request, and I was always happy to be helpful. Relationships matter, and I was glad to be of service to a former client. I have since learned that many law firm attorneys are hired in-house as a result of this attorney-client relationship.
"Who you know" also matters because "reference checks" are not necessarily limited to the people you list as references. You shouldn't be surprised that other people you know may be asked about you. Hopefully, you have left most people with a good impression of you, your legal skills and professional ethics.
Second, it is "what you know."
Most legal departments are leanly staffed so they are looking for attorneys who have the experience they need, and can work well with the business clients within the company, and also the company's outside law firms.
It also helps if you have additional skills or experience that the company can use.
Before I even applied to Farmers, I had spent three years working on social media and internet legal issues for businesses. I spent a lot of weekends writing articles for a social media blog that I launched at my former Am100 law firm. I trusted myself that this would be a growing area, and anticipated that companies would soon have a need for my expertise. I am a member of two social media legal groups at Farmers, and have given several different legal department presentations on social media legal issues since I started about one year ago.
Third, I did not wait for the right job to find me.
I let the right people, who could help me at Farmers, know that I wanted to work there. My timing was fortuitous because a corporate counsel - litigation position had just opened up. It did not end there, but everything was set in motion with me asking for what I wanted and then going for it.
[Michelle Sherman is Sr. Corporate Counsel - Litigation at Farmers Group, Inc. where she also serves on the Social Media Practice Group committee, in addition to being an adjunct professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
How'd you get that job? is part of JD Supra's In-House Perspective series, which provides in-house counsel a platform upon which to share their views and thought leadership on issues of the day, including industry news and legal developments, relationships with outside counsel, and law practice matters. To participate in the series, email firstname.lastname@example.org.]