Community Perspectives: Do you prefer a generalist or specialist role in-house?

In-house legal professionals discuss whether or not they prefer to be a generalist or specialist in their in-house career.

Community Perspectives: Do you prefer a generalist or specialist role in-house?

(Author) Counsel

Would you prefer a generalist or specialist role in-house? Obviously no objectively clear answer as to what’s “better” or not, but would love to hear your different perspectives!

General Counsel Responses:

  • I went for the best of both worlds approach and took a generalist role in a company in my specialty. I was a government contracts specialist in private practice and am now a generalist DGC at a contractor. I get to leverage my specialty skills while also learning new areas of law.

Counsel Responses:

  • I thought being a generalist was great until 2020 when half of my job became dealing with Covid rules and office reopening logistics — generalist lawyers become ‘catch-all’ employees for small companies who don’t know who should do tasks. Who should collect the Covid vaccine records and keep track of who is unvaccinated? Idk, how about the lawyer?

  • Exact same here with being tasked with Covid procedures. And I mostly do contracts these days, which I worry is too rote to help me advance down the line.

  • I have been a specialist, as well as a generalist in a specific industry. I’m now product counsel and find it to be the best of both worlds. It’s definitely the best legal job I’ve had.

  • The easiest explanation I use is that we’re general counsel for a specific product/product team (so, specialist about our product and industry but generalist in that we get to touch all the areas of law the product touches). I love it, too!

  • Agreed that it often feels like a good mix of both, especially if you’re on a smaller team. In larger departments it seems to lean more generalist with product counsel quarterbacking substantive issues to in-house or outside counsel specialists.

  • Product counsel. Hands down the absolute best legal gig, other than maybe being general counsel.

  • The generalist to product counsel pipeline is an excellent excellent move.

Attorney and Associate Responses:

  • I think this depends on where you are in your career, to some extent. I chose a job where I have the ability to be a generalist and am encouraged to do so as a junior attorney—and as I get more experience I’ll have the opportunity to become a specialist if there’s an area that speaks to me. If you really love a specific area then being a generalist can be sort of frustrating. I find it very stimulating to be a generalist, because I think it’s fun to learn in a bunch of different directions.

  • Anything involving paper or a few paragraphs needs legal review/assistance. I agree about being a ‘catch-all’. My company uses me for everything from negotiating high level contracts to converting a PDF.

  • I’m in a generalist role and I love it, but I worry I’m not developing my legal skills because I have no specialty area.

In-house? Be a part of the conversation on Fishbowl (anonymous).

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