Are boutique litigators out of luck with respect to in-house jobs because of a lack of widespread name recognition? I work at an above Cravath scale boutique, but due to the size and age of my firm, it doesn’t carry the same name as any of the major firms, even though the selectivity and experience are comparable. Should I try to lateral to a big firm to set myself up better for in-house? I’d much rather stay if possible, as the compensation difference is noticeable.

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I got an in-house gig and my school was literally the basis for a John Grisham novel. Took me more than a year and several dozen different versions of my cv — but you’ll get there. Just gotta keep trying.

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I agree with SC1, the name brand doesn't matter nearly as much transitioning to in-house as it does lateraling between firms. It's not nothing, but I wouldn't transition to a different firm just for that. Recruiters in-house will care a lot more about your experience than be picky about where exactly you got it

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Have people from your firm left to work in house? I think generally litigators don’t want to do that, it’s harder for litigators to do this due to fewer jobs, and you need to have a bit more experience than corporate folks. The good news is if you get experience faster at the boutique you may develop the skills faster. The most common in house moves (in my experience anyways) are with clients of your firm. So try making connections on your cases. Show them that you’re really good at whatever they are having you do, but also that you know and care about their business.

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I don’t think so. I would think that a company will look at your experience, law school record etc and cover letter and figure it out. Then you’ll laugh at their offer compared to your above Cravath comp and stay at a firm.

What’s your year level? And when do you think you want to try and go in-house? In-house at what kind of place? Do you have some specialty within litigation? I’d say if the in-house place you’re applying doesn’t know of your firm (or can’t figure out it’s a legit place from some googles), you probably don’t want to work at that in-house place. Name brand matters of course, but what’s going to matter way more is working on impressive matters, with impressive clients, and the network you naturally build by doing that. I would guess your Cravath+ boutique is a good place to do that. If the comp is there (and your comp is more than there) focus on where you’re going to get the actual best work/network.

Want to clarify a couple of points here. I don’t want to give the impression finding an in-house job will in any way be automatic because you have strong experience from a great boutique. As a couple folks mentioned, it’s much more difficult to go in house as a litigator. And your in-house job will probably be managing outside firms on litigation (after you have a few-several years experience at a firm), not going to trial. Maybe you’re fine with that, but be aware. There’s probably some in-house positions out there where you litigate directly, but I’m transactional so I don’t know much about it. My in-house job only hires transactional folks, and we manage any litigation as well, but we have v little litigation, if we had a lot, we might hire an in-house litigator to manage outside counsel on litigation matters. Are you set on litigation for the long term? I would do what you enjoy and are interested in, just be aware that exit in-house is going to be more difficult (vs corporate generalist etc where it comes much more naturally). What a lot of law students/junior attorneys don’t realize is that there are a lot of in-house jobs that are frankly not going to be v appealing to someone who works at biglaw/a biglaw comparable boutique. We’re talking smaller companies/startups that pay $85k-$125k, you’re the first and only lawyer there, they expect you to manage every kind of contract, every kind of litigation, HR, compliance, regulatory, never say no to the business guys, keep costs down, hardly ever bring in outside counsel and only more affordable outside counsel. I’m sure some people like those jobs and want to be a very broad generalist but that sounds like a nightmare scenario to me, I would be stressed about committing malpractice all the time bc it’s literally impossible to be an expert in that many areas, I wouldn’t have any more senior lawyers to learn from, or excellent outside counsel to rely on, and the pay is not adequate to compensate for the stress even if it’s a 9-5. YMMV. All that to say, you can (and probably will be) pickier than you think. The in-house jobs you probably want are at your current/future clients. Watch those as you progress in your career - how many of your clients have an in-house counsel your firm interacts with (vs just dealing directly with business guys at the client)? If there’s in-house counsel, what’s their path been? You may find some of them were partners or counsels at law firms before going in-house (probably higher paid positions) while others maybe only worked at law firms for 2-3 years. Think about which of those paths seem interesting to you and how you can emulate. Pay attention to what in-house counsel at your clients seem to be doing and try and develop a skillset to do that. And I wouldn’t be shy about reaching out to your law school alums etc who have litigation jobs in house and just say “hey I’d love to have a job like yours in a few years - would love to hear about your path and experience and pick your brain for a few minutes”. Worst they can do is say no. And you’ll find the knowledge from those conversations will help you in your current work too. In-house counsel are your clients, figuring out first hand what they care about can only help you.

Name brand helps, but isn’t required to make the jump. You should think more about the area of law the boutique works in. If it’s not a traditional in house skill set, then you might try to get into another area of law that is.

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