Dear Justy Dog,
I have been slogging it out at my law firm here in Tokyo for the past four years. I like the firm, my colleagues are friendly and intelligent, and I am paid well. However it’s highly unlikely I can become Partner here and even if I could I am not sure that I want it. Friends of mine working in-house seem to enjoy their jobs a lot, and I am becoming increasingly tempted to follow them and move in-house. I only have four years’ experience as a lawyer however; is it too soon?
Firstly, it’s never too late to go in-house. If you are merely unsure about an in-house move you should not rush into it, as every day you stay at the law firm gives you another day’s experience as a private practice lawyer, which is not always easy to come by in Tokyo. General Counsels in Tokyo look for law firm experience when they hire because law firms, as tough as they can sometimes be, instill good work habits in associates. The more experience you get the better.
And…once you leave private practice, it can be very, very difficult to go back to it (should you even want to).
That said if you are unhappy, or you think that you would be more motivated in-house, it may not be too soon. While more experience is always better, your four years’ private practice experience will go a long way, particularly in working for a corporate multi-national. More and more companies are hiring even less experienced lawyers (including 1st and 2nd years) so you should have options.
Take your time,