By Sarah Austin, McKinney 3L
On the morning of Thursday, Oct. 24, a group of 10 law students and seven attorneys gathered at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law to discuss in-house and alternative legal positions for attorneys. The attorney speakers spanned a large range of industries and experience, which was extremely beneficial to the law students in attendance.
The first thing we learned is that there is no standard path to becoming an in-house attorney. While many of us have heard that attorneys who have worked in a law firm environment for at least a couple of years are best suited for in-house positions, that proved not to always be the case. Our speakers stressed that there are many different paths to these types of positions – some of the attorneys had worked in law firms for two to five years, while others went straight into corporate positions based on their prior experience during law school. You never know when an externship may lead to your first position as an attorney!
In order to land that first position, it is important that you have the right skills. Many in-house positions require that attorneys handle a broad array of intellectual property issues as well as work hand-in-hand with business persons throughout the organization. In-house attorneys are asked to serve as risk advisors and not necessarily decision makers. Therefore, it is more important in these roles to have people skills and to be prepared to work with a variety of personality types. Additionally, it helps to have project management skills in order to ensure projects continue moving forward while working with several different departments to accomplish the end goal.
To obtain these skills, it was recommended that law students interested in these types of positions take a variety of business and intellectual property courses to prepare for the types of issues handled in-house. A way of accomplishing this is through the completion of either the Commercial and Corporate Law graduate certificate or the Intellectual Property Law certificate. Additionally, the attorneys were quick to point out that most law students are already gaining one of the most important skills while in law school – multi-tasking. Each week, law students are asked to juggle several different classes, school organizations, externships and pro bono work. All of this prepares students for working with several different departments throughout an organization.
As students are working towards that first position as an attorney, it is important to remember that every interaction matters! Oftentimes, firms and companies will ask its employees about any interactions anyone may have had with potential hires. First impressions may be all that separates a law student from being hired or being turned away. Make sure that first impression is positive!
Attending a Breakfast with the Bar event allows law students to speak freely with attorneys in a particular area of practice in a casual environment. If you’re interested in attending a Breakfast with the Bar event, watch your IndyBar updates for future events such as the Breakfast with the Bar on Solo/Small Firm Practices to be held on November 7. Register here!
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