Debunking Legal Job Myths #2: Corporations Don’t Hire Entry-Level Attorneys

It is a common refrain (and for the most part an accurate assessment) within the legal community that corporate in-house counsel offices won’t consider hiring a freshly-minted attorney just out of law school. Corporations, unlike law firms and government, generally do not have or want to take the time to train a new lawyer and nurture his or her development. As a rule, they want folks who can hit the ground running. Exceptions to the rule are few.

But that’s not the end of the story. The organizational structure and business model of most major corporations has changed dramatically in the 21st century, and that has proven to be good news for attorneys, including recent law school graduates. While the number of attorneys in Fortune 1,000 in-house counsel offices has remained level for a generation, the number of attorneys employed by these same companies has skyrocketed and continues to grow.

The “Cascade” Effect

Corporate life has become more complex in recent years due to the disruptions caused by technology, globalization, changing consumer demographics, and the regulatory environment. Where once upon a time companies could manage all of their legal affairs through their general counsel offices, today that is no longer possible. Certain corporate activities have become so overwhelming that companies have been compelled to establish separate offices to handle specific legal and quasi-legal functions and demands. Compliance is a classic example and now encompasses federal, state, local, and international compliance as well as certain specific subject matters that transcend geographic boundaries. Examples include environmental, tax, antitrust, claims, securities, import/export, consumer lending, human resources, and immigration, among many other substantive areas. Some corporations, in fact, have established separate offices for each of their major compliance subsets.

Types of Jobs

There is no single corporate business model that fits all companies. However, it is increasingly common in large organizations to find some or all of the following offices that hire attorneys for mainstream legal positions and/or JD Advantage jobs:

  • In-House Counsel Office
  • Board of Directors Staff
  • Tax
  • Compliance
  • Risk Management
  • Ethics
  • Due Diligence
  • Technology Commercialization
  • Real Estate
  • Litigation Management
  • Marketing
  • Intellectual Property
  • Government Affairs
  • Contracting and Procurement
  • Acquisitions
  • Privacy/Data Protection
  • Labor Relations
  • Policy Management
  • Human Resources
  • Diversity
  • Training
  • In many companies, these legal and law-related jobs are often open to new law school grads as well as experienced attorneys. The “rule” that you must have several years of experience, typically with a major law firm, in order to work for a corporate in-house counsel office does not necessarily apply to jobs in the 20 or so other offices that seek legal talent. For them, the experience bar is generally lower.

For More Information

You can read much more about these opportunities in our booklet titled JD Advantage Jobs in Corporations: Expanding the Legal Function, available in print from the National Association for Law Placement Bookstore, or the electronic edition, available from Amazon.com.