Community Perspectives: Is it possible to vet the work/life balance for an in-house role at a new company?

In-house legal professionals share how they vet the culture of a prospective employer.

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Community Perspectives: Is it possible to vet the work/life balance for an in-house role at a new company?

(Author) Associate

Is it possible to vet the work life balance for in-house roles? I’m so scared of ending up in a place that’s worse than my current situation or not any better.

In-House Counsel Responses: 

  • It really depends on the team and the company. At most places, you’ll probably be looking at a maximum of 50 hours per week with a few exceptions. You should definitely look at their turnover rate and ask what your interviewers don’t like about the company.

Attorney and Associate Responses:

  • Tell me when you know. I guess asking about outside of work hobbies
  • Yes. My last company had a lot of signs/red flags I just ignored during the hiring process. They were saying things like “we’re like a family.” which tends to lead to a toxic work environment. If they are treating your time together as if you’re lucky to be interviewing somewhere this amazing, that’s definitely a sign they are about to work you like crazy for less money because of their perceived “prestige” of working there.
  • High turnover. There were several attorneys who had been there since the startup or early stages, but most people who had come on in the last few years were also leaving rapidly. It was hard to get a straight answer on why people left.
  • You can check articles in the news about the working environment. For instance; a high profile and very opinionated CEO. When people are afraid to challenge leadership in-house, it makes your job even more difficult. I view the role of in-house counsel as a partnership. I try not to say ‘no’, but reframe things in a less risky way to still achieve the same end result. However, if your CEO is used to people just agreeing and jumping to act without any thought, that usually leads to a lot of legal cleanup on the backend and last-minute emergencies. I figured it out around the second week, but foolishly thought it would get better. I left about a year and half later when I couldn’t take it anymore.

Legal Recruiter Responses: 

  • As others mentioned; high turnover is a bad sign. If you speak to future colleagues in similar roles during the interview process ask them ‘what is a typical day?’,and  “Can you run me through what last week was like for you so I can get a sense of the type of assignments and work load?” If you ask “what’s the most exciting thing you’ve gotten to work on here?” and they genuinely do not sound interested, it’s probably a bad sign all around. Lastly, network. Use LinkedIn to see if you have any 2nd connections that have previously worked there. Ask that 1st connection link for a quick confidential intro so you can candidly hear what it’s really like and why they’re no longer there. Above all: trust your gut!

In-house? Join the conversation on Fishbowl (anonymous).