Stepping Out

IF YOU'VE EVER questioned whether you should stay at your current job, you're not alone.While it's widely accepted that inhouse attorneys today play a more important role in companies than they did 15 or even five years ago, with that increased respect has come an increased workload, increased pressure and increased liability when things go wrong.

Being an in-house attorney today is every bit as difficult as a more lucrative career at a law firm, and it's easy to start making "grass is greener" comparisons to other legal (or nonlegal) careers. Fortunately, in-house lawyers looking for a change of pace have the opportunity to translate their law and business skills into a number of other endeavors--teaching, consulting, going into private practice or switching over to the business side are just a few of the options former in-house counsel have successfully pursued. And those are not the only jobs you may be qualified to do."General counsel--especially those who've had an opportunity to function as a true strategic business partner--are well-suited to sit on boards," says Julie Goldberg, a senior client partner in the legal search group at Korn/Ferry. "They understand the drivers for growth and have the ability to temper and balance that with a substantive and intuitive sense of how to manage risk."Some GCs are parlaying those skills into slightly more exotic careers--one former in-house patent counsel left law behind completely to pursue a career as a professional poker player. (See Q&A, p. 54).But despite the allure of a big career change, most in-house lawyers think they've got it pretty good and will probably stay put, or at least stay in-house. In Corporate Legal Times' 2004 Career Satisfaction Survey, 83.7 percent of in-house counsel respondents said they'd look for another in-house position if they were to leave their current job--a testament to the many perks of being an in-house attorney today.However, if you've still got the itch to jump ship,we've got the lowdown on what it's like to try out some alternative careers from former GCs who've been there.We've investigated career choices you could realistically pursue: consulting, joining a law firm, starting your own business or being a law firm general counsel. By no means are these your only options, but they're a starting point for considering the myriad directions you could take your career. And while we don't recommend quitting your job and taking up high-stakes gambling, there's no harm in experiencing a vicarious thrill.

staff Writer

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