10 Top Tips to Become an In House Commercial Lawyer

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The Reignite team discuss how to move in house

Whilst most lawyers begin life in private practice, many ultimately decide they would like to make a move to an in house role. Their motivations? Often, it’s about being closer to the business. They may be lured by a favourite client to join their team or have an interest in a specific sector. At times, they move for a more balanced lifestyle. Though in house lawyers would warn against any perception that this is somehow an “easier” life!

Top Tips for Making the Move In House

How do you go about making that move? We recently ran a training course with RPC and the Centre for Legal Leadership on how to become an In House Commercial lawyers. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  1. Contracts are at the heart of any commercial in house role. Be sure you understand the fundamentals of any commercial contract:
    • Begin with the WHY. What is the business trying to achieve
    • What exactly is to be delivered? Goods, services, regulated activity?
    • Who is involved, now and in the future
    • When? And what would be the impact of any delay
    • What is the price? What’s the contract value, how does pricing work? Where does liabilliy sit
    • How? Service standards and levels, specific methodologies
    • Think always about what could go WRONG!
  2. Prepare to cover everything! You’re the “lawyer”. The business will see you as an advisor who happens to have legal knowledge.
  3. You have to be close to the business. Get to know people, earn their trust, spend time in the business, be close to leadership.
  4. Be prepared to offer a view; be pragmatic; be commercial; have an eye to what the business is aiming to achieve but also what could go wrong and what the risks are
  5. Prepare yourself for dealing with “unconscious incompetents”. Do not assume anyone has legal knowledge and will always do the right thing, especially when disclosing information to “the other side”.
  6. You will need to take responsibility for your own professional, legal development. Seek out ways to do that. For example
    • Crafty Counsel is a community of in house lawyers that offers events & updates
    • The Centre for Legal Leadership offers non-legal training aimed at in house lawyers
    • Professional organisations such as the Employment Lawyers Association are easy to join and offer technical updates
    • Private practice law firms are a fabulous source of information
  7. Use your external lawyers wisely. Know when to ask for help but ensure you control the external legal spend.
  8. Keep abreast of current “Hot Topics”, such as (currently)
    • AI
    • ESG
    • Online Safety
  9. Be aware that you may need to move to achieve a promotion.
  10. No day will be the same! Prepare for the unexpected.

How to Find the Perfect In House Role

We asked the General Counsel panellists how they had found their roles. As with most job hunting there is no magic bullet but here is some of their advice:

Choose a sector you’re interested in, then get out to events, network, connect with people, put yourself out there.


Be prepared to take a leap. Don’t expect the perfect role to come along. As long as it’s a business you’re interested in, it just has to help you make the first step in house.


Tailor your CV for every role. I found my role because they needed someone who could do legal training for the business and it was clear on my CV that I’d had lots of experience.

Luscinia, Ivan, Elaine

Good luck!


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