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Best/Worst-Paying In-House Jobs

Vivia Chen

June 27, 2013

It's time again for our weekly roundup of career news:

Money_sacks_By_Elnur_Fotolia1. So you want to go in-house. Search firm Major, Lindsey & Africa just released it in-house compensation report. Here's the skinny:

       - Highest paying fields: Extractive/mining/chemicals, food and beverage, medical devices, and pharmaceutical.

      - Worst paying fields: Not-for-profit, government, education, and construction/engineering. The MLA research didn't go into it, but I'd add book publishing, magazines, newspapers—or any other subject that's remotely interesting.

      - Best-paying specialties for in-house lawyers: Securities, health care, and intellectual property.

     -  The money: Unless you are a top GC at a Fortune 500 company, don't expect big money. Salaries for most in-house lawyers are a lot more prosaic. MLA reports that it's usually GCs with over 20 years of practice who cross over the $300,000 cash compensation line. The median pay for a 1975 law school grad is about $195,000. Ho-hum.

For all the gory details, read the entire [fun, exciting, scintillating—not!] report here. Or get the synopsis from Corporate Counsel.

2. Legal secretaries are as obsolete as Selectric typewriters. It's tough getting laid off from a high paying lawyer job in Big Law. But it's also bad (perhaps worse) for those who are laid off from the secretarial staff. (The Wall Street Journal).

3. Don't mess with Eve. Careerist guest blogger Eve Birnbaum, who recently wrote "Summer Associate Tips—How To Work the Lunch and Cocktail Party," was a bit miffed about Alison Monahan's criticism in Above the Law. (Monahan writes that Birnbaum's advice "made me want to poke my eyes out.")

Here's Birnbaum's response to Monahan's article, "Do You Have to be an Annoying Suck-up to Succeed as a Summer Associate?":

My advice is to prepare for the “typical questions” that you will be asked on a summer lunch and to respond with answers that will advance your career goals by demonstrating your interest in a practice or the firm. My sample response to, “What are you working on?” is distorted by Monahan as advice that you “approach [an attorney] at a firm event” and open the conversation with the gratuitous remark, “I’m working on an IP matter with Joe.”  That would, in fact, be annoying (though I’m not sure it would be grounds for trying to get the summer fired as she suggests). I trust that you are all social enough to carry on a decent conversation.

Monahan also asserts that firms create assignments “to boost [associate] confidence.” To that I can only say: Seriously? I don’t think firms care that much about associate confidence. And frankly, at most law firms there is enough "real" work for summer associates with actual assignments—some of them are even interesting.

In any event, attorneys at the firm do need to hear that you find their practice interesting, and that you are enthusiastic. If you want to call it “sucking up”–fine. Every potential employer needs to hear that you would love to work at their firm, so go for it—but with credibility and finesse.

I do agree with Monahan on her last piece of advice" “Good luck, have fun.”

Well, okay.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I work in-house. I really appreciate this information!

You are always "on point"....
Enjoy your weekend!!

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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