Will training in-house hold me back from private practice?

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By Legal Cheek on


An aspiring lawyer questions qualifying at legal tech boutique

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a future trainee wonders if they are limiting their future options.

“Hi Legal Cheek,

I’m emailing with a career conundrum for you. I’m currently working as a consultant at a legal tech boutique that specialises in AI and in derivatives law. The company works in various investment banks on these aspects and is growing. The job is going well and I am enjoying it, and it’s quite likely that I will be able to qualify here as the job offers training contracts which is fantastic for me.

I have one concern, however, whilst I would qualify as a derivatives lawyer, I would have trained in-house in a boutique that not many people will have heard of. I also would only be able to work in derivatives, as we don’t work in other areas of structured finance or any other areas of law at this time.

I would like to get some private practice experience under my belt further along in my career, and am wondering if where I trained may hold me back from this? Should I keep applying for regular TCs in the meantime or stick it out at my current job and see how it goes? Be great to hear people’s thoughts.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.


Ex-US Associate

You can always go in-house at another company after you qualify (many of them will take you if your experience is in a similar area as I went in-house from PP in a field that was only peripheral to the area of finance that I qualified in) and to be honest, unless you’re that fixated on the linear goal of partnership, the sweaty private practice life isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. If the offer of the TC is there at your current place, I’d take it.


Whilst it’s an annoying answer, it depends.

At the moment, with few firms hiring you’d probably struggle.

This time last year, unlikely to have been an issue.

Factors to consider are:

(1) Would you be prepared to move at 3-4 PQE if the market’s just not there when you qualify?

(2) How well known in the market are the guys you work for? If you’re being directly supervised by a couple of Tier 1 formed MC/US partners that’s a very different look on the CV to working for someone who left a mid tier firm at 3 PQE.

(3) Does your work bring you into contact with derivatives lawyers from other firms? If you do a good job working alongside or across from someone they’ll be much less concerned about an unconventional background.

(4) How much actual law do you do? You mention the business uses AI, are you also doing some/quite a lot of coding? For more enlightened partners this wouldn’t be an issue, but there aren’t many of those around.

Spam Hamwich

I know a couple of M&A lawyers who moved into private practice from in house roles. There wasn’t an issue with their background — they had the relevant experience the firm was looking for and they were known from working together on certain deals. Having said that, neither of them lasted that long. I think the move was too jarring. Or perhaps that was their intention all along just to stay for a short time for the experience and a CV boost. They have now both returned to in house roles.


Law firms will be very interested in you… for as long as you remain in house.

Future trainee

If you can, juggle both – apply for TCs (no harm) whilst working in your current role and whichever lands first you take.

I know of people who trained in-house and were able to move to PP and excel. Develop your skills, get involved in good work and build your knowledge. Derivatives and structured finance lawyers are always in hot demand, so as long as it’s an area you want to qualify into you’ll be fine. Learn from good lawyers, connect with lawyers in this space and have good recruiters, you’ll be able to find a PP role as a qualified lawyer.


Perfectly possible to move from IH to PP. But you have to work hard and make the case for it.

For one decent recruiter there are three lazy ones who don’t understand, perhaps don’t want to understand what you bring to the table.

As you will know, many IH departments are just glorified purchasing departments, with relatively boring low-to-mid-level contractual work, but outsourcing anything technical to their external panel firms. So you will have to make your case. You’re not a person who’s just haggling over a mutual indemnity in some tech MSA that nobody will ever read again. You are a derivatives lawyer and have good experience in that space.

From what I have seen, at NQ level it’s less about the technical skills and more about the lifestyle. If you are used to relatively moderate hours and no time recording, then PP life can be a bit of a culture shock.


Yes. Any other questions?

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