Based on the article, Going In-house: A Changing Marketplace, first published in Legal Business World – 2020 here.
SSQ’s expert APAC Senior Adviser Kenneth Tung explores this topic in the first of a series of articles.
“These are the times that try men’s soul.” – Thomas Paine, The Crisis, Dec. 23, 1776
Serving as a panelist in an international law firm’s leadership program turned the author’s mind to some thoughts on what lawyers need to ponder when going in-house in this time of pandemic and destabilization of more than half a century of nuclear geopolitical balance.
In 1997, the author was part of an early wave of lawyers moving from law firms into corporate legal departments in mainly western multinationals in China. Since then, the market has evolved and grown more vibrant and we have seen the rise of Chinese state owned and private enterprises as well as businesses and industries at varying stages of development, many of whom are now competitive global enterprises in their own right.
There is of course much media on the subject of moving in-house, including observations and helpful advice from Frank Yuen, Senior Manager in SSQ China here. Common considerations for going in-house are in essence not that different from those applicable to any job move – people are driven by their head, their heart, and of course the dough – or to put it a different way, what one is good at doing, what one loves to do and what pays (either to maintain a lifestyle or to scale one’s ambitions).
These considerations include:
In addition to these criteria, both the lawyer contemplating a move in-house and any organization recruiting legal professionals and building its legal department should take into consideration how the legal sector is evolving. This may be at a slower pace than some other industries and professions, but many key first steps have been taken in a journey of transformation.
Popular legal media has for some time been covering the notable rise in both status and power of in-house lawyers  and the move of talented lawyers to in-house roles . This reflects the significant shift of bargaining power we are seeing from suppliers (the most commented on being “Big Law”) to buyers of legal services and a client revolt that is putting private practice lawyers on their collective back foot. Law firms are having to rethink how they do business and it is in-house lawyers who are driving that. It is a very exciting time for GCs and their teams.
 Rise of the In-house Lawyers, R. SenGupta, Financial Times, Mar. 17, 2010.
 Why are so many talented lawyers moving in-house?, C. Baski, Reconteur, Nov. 27, 2018.
Senior Advisor, Asia Pacific