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Community Perspectives: My new in-house position is in a cubicle. Am I out of line for assuming I would have an office?

In-house legal professionals share their thoughts on expectations of office atmosphere and layout.

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Community Perspectives: My new in-house position is in a cubicle. Am I out of line for assuming I would have an office?
General Counsel and Director Responses:
  • I think it’s super common to not have an office in-house unless you’re the GC. When my company moved offices, we managed to finagle two offices for the legal team that were shared by six attorneys (three per office) and that was a luxury. Non-law firms just don’t have the same mindset and usually it’s the business execs who get the offices if there even are any with the new madness for open floor plans. Frankly, it probably never even occurred to them that you’d expect an office and I wouldn’t ask for one until you’ve proven yourself at the company.
  • I've been in-house my whole career (three companies, eight years) and I've never even had a cubicle. Tech is open floor plan forever.
  • it's not a thing. I’m not in private practice anymore, but the two times I did change firms, a private office was a must have that I made a point of solidifying. Now if you have remote work option, maybe a cubicle isn’t all bad, but I would not be thrilled about working in a cubicle and likely having to wear a mask all day. Luckily being a principal and a GC at my current firm means I don’t have to deal with things like this. I hear you!
  • It's rare to have an office in-house. And if you are in tech, you may not even as a GC. Look at it as a chance to get to know your coworkers, those random interactions help you to be more than just a lawyer and ingrain yourself in the business and culture of the company.
  • At both companies I've worked for, anyone below Director level has a cubicle and everyone director level and above has an office.
  • Yes.
Counsel Responses:
  • I had an office out of law school in-house. It was nice I guess, especially to shut the door sometimes, but people usually ignore that anyways. I probably had roughly 20 calls over that three-year time where I really needed the privacy to discuss all of the things people are bringing up. It's still worth using that as a lever though. I did manage around 10 employees which was a weird start to my career, and I definitely needed an office to do performance reviews or whatever. In my next role, I didn’t manage anyone and really didn’t do HR work. Basically everyone knew what was going on so there was a rare need for an office. I had the option to take an office but I liked interacting with people since COVID lockdowns had made life kind of lonely in the office world. So, I sat in a cube. Just started my new role two months ago, still remote. I am curious what I’ll get when we go in, like you I didn’t really think to ask about it during the interview process.
  • I’d use it as an excuse to work from home as much as possible. It sucks but I think it's pretty common. How’s the pay? Is the work exciting? How senior are you?
  • You get a cubicle? So many places, especially in tech, you don’t even get that.
  • The last time I was working at the office we had an open floor plan. We started with an office but they were taken away to make room for the office of the future. A designated cubicle would have been an upgrade! So basically unless you got there early, you were stuck with the worst seats in the open space where everyone could see what you were doing. I had a rolling backpack where I carried all my files, laptop, keyboard etc. I hated it.
  • I’m worried about something similar. I guess it depends on what everyone else on your level has.
  • The cube was my biggest gripe when I transitioned to in-house. I could not think with the constant noise or work with people “popping” by. Eventually you get used to it, but I miss shutting my office door. It is a luxury I took for granted when I was still in private practice.
  • As in-house counsel myself (second go-around), I cannot fathom the concept of working without a door. If your employer expects you to do *any* work which requires confidential communications (contract negotiations implicating trade secrets; HR investigations; non-public Board support; etc.), you need to be able to close off from the rest of the office. It's disappointing to read all of the comments from the tech world about open-space work, even for GCs. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy the human interactions, and most of the time (unless I'm concentrating or on the phone) my door is open. But the ability to close it is still key.
  • We have open cubes and only AGC’s or above have the option of an office with options to use phone booths and conference rooms as needed.
  • We do not have offices and some of our offices are complete open plan (not tech either). When you need to do a confidential call, you find a huddle room. It’s not ideal but it is the increasing norm.
  • It will be the first of many corporate things that you’ll find irritating coming from law. You’ll get used to it. What you may not ever get used to is the jargon 🤮.
  • Be glad you have a a cubicle. You just went from top of the food chain at a law firm to somewhere in the middle as a necessary cost of doing business. You don’t generate revenue and you don’t build. But you’ll get most of your life back. Don’t sweat it. If you really want an office, become a GC.

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