The evolution of general counsels remains a major topic of discussion. What is a senior lawyer to do after 10, 20, or more years at the helm of a listed or unlisted legal department, after building and stabilising a team, ensuring its proper integration within the group, and overcoming the numerous and often sensitive challenges inherent to the role?


The willingness of lawyers to join an in-house legal department during the course of their career is a classic option for these professional profiles. Less discussed are the departures (or returns) of GCs to law firms. However, this is a trend that we are increasingly observing and can offer numerous advantages for both parties, provided that the basis for discussion and expectations are clear.


In an employment market where these leadership positions are rare and not very visible, this option appears attractive. Moreover, even though experienced profiles remain preferred in many cases, we note that certain companies prefer more junior profiles for these positions. This is explained by various factors: there are, of course, financial considerations, but there may also be a preference in medium-sized and growing structures, or those reaching a certain stage of development, for a specific search for profiles that will develop in line with the company’s legal challenges.


An overview of benefits from both the perspective of law firms and GCs


From the point of view of law firms, integrating a GC offers significant advantages:


  1. An in-depth understanding of the needs and specific challenges of companies provided by internal knowledge: This understanding can help the firm refine its services and offer targeted and practical advice to its clients. Their understanding of the commercial and legal issues faced by businesses allows the firm to position itself as a strategic partner for its clients. This is a competitive advantage in business development.
  2. Strengthening and developing the firm’s expertise: The experience gained in business by GCs in areas such as regulatory compliance, risk management and corporate strategy enriches the overall expertise of the firm, to the benefit of their clients. This allows the firm to present a complete service offering and can encourage discussion between departments of the firm. These profiles bring a strategic, innovative vision and an ability to lead complex legal projects, thereby improving operational efficiency and profitability.
  3. Bringing senior expertise: Law firms are faced with managing the departure of senior professionals, counsels, partners, and the recruitment of these profiles is complex. Integrating a GC helps reinforce seniority and guarantee team stability.
  4. Contributing management skills: Having held a leadership role in a legal department often implies dealing with the management of multi-profile and sometimes multi-jurisdictional teams, strategic planning, and even change management. When joining a law firm, these skills can prove useful and improve internal management of the firm.


From the perspective of GCs, joining a law firm can offer several benefits:

  1. Control of career development: This change can be very beneficial in these professionals’ career planning, as evidenced by the many lawyers who have made this choice. It closes no doors and, on the contrary, allows one to consider either continuing in a law firm or a return to in-house later.
  2. Enrichment of skills and experience: Joining a law firm can broaden the variety of cases handled, both through dealing with a multitude of clients from different sectors and industries and through the issues dealt with, unlike working in-house where, depending on the sector, the type of activity may be more limited.
  3. Autonomy in case management: Freed from the commercial and overall objectives of a business, a lawyer has a great deal of latitude in terms of the strategic approach to a case and can propose innovative solutions, particularly as their experience in business may have fostered an excellent understanding of risk management.
  4. Increase in level of remuneration: Depending on the type of structure and positioning within the firm, it is likely that the level of remuneration will be higher in a law firm than in-house.


The transition of GCs to law firms is a trend that can benefit both individuals and firms. It remains essential to consider the key success factors for successful integration. The pragmatism and advisory capability already present in GCs will be a strong asset, as will operational capacity. From GC to practicing lawyer, it is important to determine the relevance of their status as well as an integration timetable. It is also necessary to consider the level of autonomy, remuneration, expectations in terms of client management, and development prospects to ensure the sustainability of this new working relationship.


This transition to a law firm, which occurs in both French and UK/US structures, is often linked to the network developed by a GC at the start or during the course of their career. Personal connections remain a strong element of this choice. In general, all developments and movements that contribute to market fluidity are beneficial, as we observe too in the UK market.

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