Think moving up is the only way to achieve in-house happiness? Think again. In-house career moves can go up, down and horizontal – and all can be the right move depending on the circumstances. Most former private practice attorneys know that to move up in the ranks, moving laterally is often the best move as legacy law firms move slowly to elevate those in their ranks. But in the in-house world, lateral moves don’t always mean legal ones. Indeed, many in-house lawyers have been promoted out of the legal function and now run business units. Some even rise all of the way to the executive ranks, with many CEOs having previously been lawyers. Many lawyers who make lateral moves to the pure business function end up being clients of the legal team and help direct their activities in closing deals and strategic transactions. So when contemplating your next career move, don’t forget that once you are in the in-house world, your career moves may be far more diverse than lock-step maneuvering in private practice. And even when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle by becoming a General Counsel or Chief Legal Officer, your journey may still continue inside the executive suite.
“Do you view a successful in-house career as being “vertical” (up the corporate ladder) rather than “horizontal”? Don’t feel alone, but think again. Legal career opportunities are mostly horizontal (lateral). Although vertical moves (promotions) can be desirable, they also are rare for in-house counsel. So obsessing on promotions may lead to job unhappiness….”