Looking to recruit your first in-house lawyer? Here are some factors to consider

April 13, 2019

The decision about whether to bring all, or even some, of your legal services in-house can be a complex one. Many factors relating to your business, stretching beyond simple affordability, need to be considered before committing to anything. Plus, once the decision to hire has been made, due care must be given to the criteria the lawyer needs to meet, and therefore the background of anybody you choose to recruit, as well as how the recruitment process itself will be structured. Do you need an in-house lawyer (Giurista d’Impresa)? Both external and internal factors will influence your decision. Externally, changes to regulations and the increase in corporate governance requirements across the EU mean that more organisations than ever before need to be mindful of – and also meet – their obligations.  As well as this, there are many internal drivers that lead to appointing an in-house lawyer. The cost of using external legal services is often top of the list, and it generally becomes economical to bring the function in-house when legal bills exceed €230,000. Yet there are many more benefits beyond cost reduction. An in-house lawyer is able to develop an in-depth knowledge of the company – its objectives, its strategy and its stakeholders, which all help to ensure a truly strategic legal function. The job role The nature of the role itself will determine the type of lawyer you look for. It is therefore worth having a firm grasp of your budget, the complexity of the issues to be dealt with, whether the scope of the role is likely to expand and if there will be any training or handover period. Once these have been ascertained, you can turn your attention to the attributes of the lawyer themselves: 1) Qualifications  Italy has a dual qualification system for lawyers based on rights of audience. After graduating with a law degree, lawyers can choose to either undertake a 24 months traineeship in private practice followed by the Bar exam to become an Avvocato;  or, alternatively, they can move straight into an in-house position and forego the traineeship to become a Giurista d’Impresa. Crucially however, if a lawyer chooses to move in-house and become a Giurista d’Impresa, then they must give up their Bar registration and therefore their rights of audience. 2) Experience It is unlikely that a first in-house lawyer will be recruited straight out of university with no on-the job experience. Instead, an organisation will be looking for a lawyer with significant PQE (Post Qualification Experience) and with a background in commercial contracts. For many industries, especially those that are highly regulated, specific industry experience may be required – whether that has been gained in-house or in private practice. It’s also worth considering the company’s commercial objectives and strategy as it will dictate the background of the lawyer. For instance, if an organisation has ambitious growth plans, then corporate experience would be useful. The recruitment process Where there is no legal expertise within the organisation, the recruitment process itself can be daunting, especially if the hiring manager does not have a local market knoweldge.  In particular, Italy is characterised by having a large number of qualified lawyers so initially one might have the impression that it is going to be easy! However, because the legal sector is still quite conservative, a large majority of the lawyers have domestic experience and sometimes they do not have the English language skills. Furthermore an understanding of the market and its businesses structure is essential to find a candidate that will be the right fit from a cultural perspective. Last but not least, it might be useful to have an overview of the employment laws, cost of labour, taxes, standard benefits and contractual levels. Where should you start from? Firstly, you need to have an idea of the profile you are looking for and the requirements of the business or any special issues the business is facing locally. You can either work directly on drafting a job description or we can help you in drafting one from scratch. You then need to secure budget for this role making sure it is aligned to the market and to the skill set you are looking for. How can we assist you in this phase? We start by providing a benchmark for the salary of the type of lawyer you’re looking to hire, as well as an assessment of how easy (or difficult) it will be to find the right candidate. After this, we can help with drafting the job description and advising you on the appropriate job title, so that they both accurately reflect the role itself as well as the market trends. We also guide you through the entire recruitment process. This includes arranging the interviews, collecting the candidate feedback and managing the process right through to the offer stage. We have years of experience helping organisations hire their first in-house lawyer, and we are always on-hand to answer any questions you may have and to provide sensible, commercially-aware advice.