The results of an Association of Corporate Counsel survey landed in my inbox recently, and I was pleased — although not all that surprised — to read that 85 per cent of CLOs found their careers to be rewarding and “welcomed opportunities to expand their roles and the support they provided to their clients.”
While the survey (see page 38 for more details) of more than 1,000 CLOs and general counsel is U.S.-based, I’m willing to bet that the same results would hold true if the same survey were conducted here at home.
It’s good to know that despite increased scrutiny on companies and shifts in responsibilities, most CLOs and GCs are enjoying what they do, are rewarded appropriately, and are professionally satisfied.
I’ve been editing InHouse for almost a year now and have had a chance to talk to numerous in-house counsel about why they initially made the move in-house, what keeps them busy (and what keeps them up at night), and if they ever see themselves making the move back to private practice.
Almost every corporate counsel gives a somewhat diplomatic answer. A close friend of mine jokes that he hates saying never, “but I can’t imagine the circumstances that would have to exist in order for me to decide to work for a law firm again.”
“Perhaps a cosmic alignment of planets,” he decides.
This month I met up with Julie A. Lee Harrs for this issue’s professional profile (see page 31) and we spent some time talking about professional satisfaction. Lee Harrs, now general counsel at mining company Sherritt International, spent 13 years practising corporate-commercial law at a large Bay Street firm in Toronto.
Lee Harrs says it was a family decision to move in-house — as her and her husband had two small children at the time — but the decision to stay in-house is all hers.
“I truly don’t understand why people stay at law firms, having been on both sides, and I had a very positive experience at a Bay Street law firm so I have no knocks against it,” she says.
So why is practising in-house so rewarding? Could it be the more predictable — but intense — hours? Is it the ability to work on a project through to completion? Does it have anything to do with the variety of legal issues that cross your desk in any given day?
For some, it’s also the satisfaction of knowing your work is directly helping others in need.
In this month’s Industry Spotlight (see page 35), associate editor Helen Burnett talks to counsel at biotechnology companies across Canada and finds that there’s also an altruistic satisfaction that comes from the work in-house lawyers do.
Craig Sherburne, director of business development and legal affairs at BioMS Medical, says one of the rewards of his job is that he’s not just making a difference for the company, but “you’re going to work everyday with the possibility of . . . playing some not insignificant role in helping hundreds of thousands of people all across the world,” he tells InHouse.
“It puts a little spring in your step to know that you actually are making a difference and you’re all working together to make a difference to an awful lot of people who certainly need it.”