Katia Bloom may be the new face of in-house counsel.
The sole U.S.-based lawyer at virus protection company Avira Operations GmbH & Co. began her legal career in house at biotech company Anesiva, where she was hired before passing the bar in 2008. While she did receive some legal training from the outside counsel and business training from the CFO, ultimately she learned on the fly.
Though there have always been exceptions, the typical in-house career path started with seven years at a law firm. Lacking a capacity and general desire to train new lawyers, most companies preferred to let new graduates hone their skills elsewhere.
But there are signs that's changing rapidly, as companies large and small look to fill in-house slots with cheaper, more junior lawyers. With cost cutting at firms affecting both hiring and training, smaller companies are seeing more quality applicants and are now selectively hiring people with zero to five years of experience, recruiters and in-house managers say.
Evan Anderson, a recruiter with BCG Attorney Search, says that since late 2011 smaller companies are considering people with less than three years of experience. "I had never seen this before. It has always been at least five to six years before a company would bring a lawyer in house."
Increasingly more companies want to keep their litigation costs down and develop associates in house, Anderson added.
And there aren't a lot of jobs at large law firms. "Big firm litigation was decimated in the downturn and hasn't fully recovered," Anderson says.
Large Silicon Valley companies with commensurate legal departments and recruiting operations, including Hewlett-Packard Co., have a head start on hiring and training new grads. The computermaker started a recruitment and training program back in 2010 for attorneys coming out of school.
Now, for their own reasons, smaller legal departments are hiring lawyers within the first five years of practice. Local tech companies like Avira, SideCar, SanDisk Corp., Splunk Inc. and Infoblox Inc., have either hired lawyers within their first five years after school, or say they are considering younger candidates for current positions.
Milpitas-based flash storage company SanDisk, with 35 attorneys in its legal department, brought on a law school graduate at the end of 2012, general counsel Eric Whitaker says. That person had worked with the company before, as a student.
Data storage company Splunk in San Francisco has also dropped its prior experience criteria from at least 15 years to between four and six, as it rapidly expands its legal department, says its GC, Leonard Stein. His department recently hired a licensing specialist and is close to making an offer on a second lawyer, bringing the total at the company to 12. Stein says he expects three more hires by the end of the year.