For many young associates at law firms who are tired of long hours, unpredictable schedules and dim chances of partnership, an in-house position beckons like the promised land.

They dream of regular hours, no more billing, no pressure to bring in business, and the opportunity to develop productive, long-term relationships with clients. And they suspect that, with the decade-long economic boom, bonuses and stock options make in-house compensation competitive with law firm salaries.