Berkeley Law LL.M. Program featured in LLM Guide, December 4, 2019:
While Big Law firms are still attractive, in-house legal departments are increasingly appealing for graduates of top LL.M. programs, who are entering them in far larger numbers than ever before.
“There are a couple of major market forces at work here,” says Rachel Zuraw, co-director of LL.M. professional development at Berkeley Law in California: “There is no guarantee that you will make partner at your law firm, and companies are building increasingly sophisticated and large in-house legal teams. So law students are seeing more venues where they can pursue interesting work.”
Peter Landreth, Zuraw’s co-director, adds that in-house work can be a lifestyle upgrade for attorneys who have been working in Big Law, where the hours are often grueling. “A major attraction is leaving the conventional billable hour model of most law firms behind,” he says. “As an in-house attorney, you are part of a team working towards a business objective, irrespective of how many hours it takes.”
However, he adds that it is still relatively unusual for companies to hire LL.M. grads right out of law school — unless they have significant experience in private practice.
“Companies still rely on law firms to provide practical training for junior attorneys so that when they transition to in-house work they can hit the ground running.”
Zuraw agrees: “Many in-house legal departments still view that as the best training ground, and it will expose young lawyers to everything that can go wrong by working with a variety of clients so that they can later help a single company get everything right.”
Zuraw at Berkeley Law adds: “If you are a junior attorney, being at a tiny startup could be negative because you don’t have anyone to train you; conversely, if you are an experienced attorney, being at a tiny startup could give you the chance to really flex your knowledge and judgment.”
She adds that in in-house departments people tend to specialize in a field of law, so you should make sure that you are really interested in the role for which you are applying.