Q&A with in-house lawyers and Aspire alumni

The LexisNexis Aspire networking and professional group facilitated by Sophie Gould, met on Thursday 11th April 2019. For the Q&A session, we had three experts take to the floor.

Dina Jubrail trained in-house at BT and has subsequently moved into private practice and currently works for Baker Botts in their Competition team. Dina was joined by Dan Antoun, an Intellectual Property lawyer at the BBC and Chris Benn who previously worked in-house at BT, and now works as a TMT Solicitor at Pinsent Masons.

Q. What are the best aspects of working in-house?

A. Dina emphasised the great insight into a business working in-house provides: it enables you to see first-hand how legal advice is received and therefore learn how best to deliver it (eg by a quick phone call or email rather than an essay). Further, it is an opportunity to work with professionals outside the legal sector, who can offer perspectives from other areas of a business enabling you to think ahead accordingly, and commercially.

Chris, who co-authored the Best Practice Framework For In-house Training Contracts, focussed on the role an in-house training contract plays in your route to qualification. He discussed how  training in-house fits well with the route from paralegal to NQ and how a training contract can be achieved in-house, often by working with the SRA. The key factor to this process is asking yourself and your supervisor how your experience matches up against a more structured training contract.

Q. What tips do you have for paralegals trying to secure training contracts?

A. Dan led by telling anyone in such a position to embed yourself in the business and the way it works. This can be achieved by taking on work outside of your role, eg non-legal projects. As well as giving you a greater understanding of how a business runs, it can be something relevant to discuss in applications and to give perspective as to what you really want to work on in the future.

Chris relayed his own experience of the application process and said the key to his success had been to focus on a smaller pool of firms and companies. Further, you should seek out what strikes you about each place; there are more in-house training contracts than ever to choose from, so you should research thoroughly to prioritise what you want from this selection.

The audience was asked if any of them had been in that position and how they achieved the successful transition. One participant said they leveraged another offer of a training contract to help them to secure one where they currently worked. Another used their secondment to integrate themselves in a different business and its hiring process and used this knowledge to secure a training contract themselves.

Q. Why did you move from working in-house to working in private practice and how did you prepare for it?

A. Dina felt that she was becoming too specialised in one area and wanted a change. She decided she wanted to move to Brussels to practice competition law and challenge herself. Her advice for preparation was not to overdo it —as she had done by jumping with both feet into her new life and career in Brussels.

Chris said he could have stayed on at BT but wanted to practice all three elements of TMT, rather than limiting himself to just telecommunications. As a Commercial lawyer in private practice he was able to do all of this and more; he gained breadth and variety whilst also honing his own technical skills.

Regarding preparation, both Dan and Chris recommended meeting other like-minded in-house or previous in-house lawyers at events such as this to discuss any potential jump.

As well as Aspire, Chris recommended looking for workshops, and that he had found such through the Society of Computers and Law. Similarly, Dan  recommended IPSOC (a society for junior IP lawyers). 

Q. How much support did you have at NQ level?

A. Chris said this was highly partner-specific: some were overly zealous with their guidance and pointing areas for improvement, whereas others would trust you to do your own work without their help. The key is to understand your own ability and to ask for help when you’re not sure on a point – know when to ask.

An audience member who felt their only supervisor was not providing the support they needed asked whether the panel had any advice on this point. Chris suggested finding other ways to develop yourself eg by seeking out training opportunities. It was suggested this may be a submission for the Aspire advisory board, as it was an issue that resonated with many other participants.

Join Aspire today

Aspire is free to join and open to all in-house lawyers in the early stages of their legal career. Join today.

Relevant Articles
Area of Interest