Working in a company as a lawyer is often considered a dull or even tranquil career plan. However, being in a single organization includes numerous challenges as stimulating and far-reaching as those found in a law firm. Here are the challenges or a corporate lawyer.
After working for a national law firm in one of its offices in Montreal, Marie-Hélène, a lawyer specializing in labour and employment law, turned to a corporate career. “The instability of my work schedule had become difficult to reconcile with my personal life,” she says. “I wanted to have a little more control over my daily life by balancing work and personal life while looking after my health. That’s why I turned to the company.”
Now a senior labour relations consultant in a work environment with several thousand employees, her daily life has completely changed. No more long days of more than 10 hours, weekends full of work or vacations interrupted by an urgent call from a client. “I can now engage in social or sports activities much more easily, without having to cancel everything at the last minute, for example, such as a sports class at 6pm on Thursday,” says Marie-Hélène. “Before, it was hard to be able to plan anything in the evenings during the week, because I could never know if a last minute task would stop me from going.”
Being a corporate lawyer: many challenges
Even though the corporate worker reduces the number of clients to just one, the projects are stimulating and large-scale, according to Marie-Hélène. “I work on files which are just as important as those I was dealing with in the law firm. I also have many responsibilities as well as independence in managing my cases that I would never have had in several years if I had stayed in my old job!”
Management of priorities is also facilitated. “The fact of having just one client lets scheduling of ‘urgent’ files be simplified, by discussing and developing strategies in-house, while in a law firm, with several clients, you cannot tell Client A that Client B’s emergency should be treated as a priority.”
The law firm, a very instructive time
Despite the pressure and overloaded schedule, Marie-Hélène has no regrets about her time spent in a law firm, quite the contrary. “It’s the best school there is! I was able to rub shoulders with some of the professionals and learn from the best.” The young woman was also able to acquire skills that are useful to her in her current work. “Working in a private firm has allowed me to develop my methods, which lets me be more effective in preparation, organization and management of my files. I also learned to deliver quality work under pressure and quickly identify priorities, which today allows me to be recognized for my sense of organization and efficiency.”
Even though Marie-Hélène has found her happiness elsewhere than in a law firm, she is aware that this practice is less suitable for some professionals. For example, for a lawyer who is passionate about business development while being on his own with atypical work hours, private practice in a law firm is still an excellent choice, she says. To each his own!