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As a young associate in one of Pittsburgh’s largest firms, Rick Taylor was unhappy with the path his career was taking. “I was busy but it always seemed I was working on minor aspects of some case that a partner was going to try,” he said. “I wasn’t getting good experience, and I didn’t enjoy the practice of law. I think my dissatisfaction had a lot to do with the sheer number of attorneys in the firm.” Taylor left the firm in 1996 and joined U.S. Steel’s legal department. After spending six years with a private firm, his second job out of law school has been much more satisfying, largely because of the issues he has been able to handle and frequent interaction with clients, he said. “I was given a full caseload right after coming here,” Taylor said. “I was first chair early on, and I had a chance to try cases. I had almost full autonomy to handle the cases as well. I made the switch to get a different experience. I really enjoy practicing law now.” CLIENT RAPPORT Working more closely with clients is a common goal among lawyers choosing to work in a corporate legal department, according to Lori Carpenter, president of Carpenter Legal Search Inc. “When someone jumps in-house, it’s often for a chance to work for one client. Being closely involved with the business decisions and being seen as a business adviser and a legal adviser is attractive to many people,” Carpenter said. “In-house lawyers usually work on something from end to end. At a firm, they are often brought in for a piece of something and are doing lots of things for many different people. Feeling like they play an integral part for a company and aren’t just being viewed as overhead is a very attractive feeling. There is no equating what a lawyer can contribute by being close to their client.” U.S. Steel’s Taylor said he feels his work as a litigator is more appreciated in his current position. He also said the work is just as important, but often less time-consuming, than the work being handled within private firms. “We are all working toward the same goal — to advance U.S. Steel,” he said. “Here, we do what’s necessary to get the work done efficiently. And we don’t have to worry about billable hours. There is no need for face time if you don’t have a lot to do. “With the private firm, I felt guilty about not going in on a weekend even if I didn’t have much to do. There was an unspoken rule: ‘You are at our beck and call.’ A partner wouldn’t think anything of dumping a large project on someone on a Friday afternoon,” he said. Taylor said he did not consider any options other than working in a large firm when he finished law school. Now he admits the higher compensation was attractive. The day he was hired, his $65,000 salary matched that of his father’s, a judge in West Virginia, he said. “It speaks to a lack of compensation for judges there, but also speaks volumes about what big firms were paying,” Taylor said. “I didn’t consider anything else.” While the pay was rewarding, the hours and responsibilities were not, he said. Although Taylor took a slight pay cut in the beginning, he has been well compensated during his time with U.S. Steel, and he said the raises were better early on than what he would have earned in the same timeframe had he stayed with the firm. “The starting salaries [at the firm] were high, but in a typical year the raises were small,” he said. While Taylor’s experience working in a corporation’s legal department has been positive, he said he realizes it may not be for everyone. He said his experience is unique because U.S. Steel lawyers try their own cases. Also, he said, his status as a young associate in the private firm surely led to not-so-plum assignments. Robert Pugh, chief counsel of intellectual property at PNC, said he has experienced the best of both worlds. Pugh said he was satisfied while an associate at a large Pittsburgh firm when he decided to go in-house with Allegheny Teledyne, now Allegheny Technologies. Pugh eventually returned to the firm as a shareholder and left again when PNC offered him the chance to establish an IP practice there six months ago. He said every situation varies depending on the lawyer and the opportunity put before the individual. “I don’t think you can characterize departures,” Pugh said. “Each situation is different and really has more to do with the opportunity that presents itself. This was a chance to establish an intellectual property practice in a company that never had one, in an industry that didn’t have much history in this area.” From a business standpoint, Carpenter said companies like to bring lawyers into their own departments for much the same reason that lawyers like to join them — to establish a good lawyer-client relationship. They want attorneys devoted solely to their clients and handling only their work. “It’s a proactive response from the corporations,” Carpenter said. “Client interaction and need are the issues that drive bringing a lawyer in-house.” About 70 percent of her recruiting business is dedicated to in-house positions, Carpenter said. She said there are often two factors involved in in-house hiring. The corporation has a position to fill due to increased work, and the attorney is a known commodity from doing work as outside counsel. Pugh’s situation is an example. PNC’s intellectual property work was increasing, and the position was created with him in mind. BEST OF BOTH WORLDS Pugh said the two positions present different challenges and opportunities, and having done both has made him a better lawyer. He said he had more opportunity to do litigation while in private practice but is more involved in the day-to-day business decisions as an in-house attorney. “I truly think there is a great advantage to doing both throughout a career,” he said. “You will get some experience in one area that you won’t get in the other. Most businesses are in a certain industry so the legal issues you face are particular to that industry, where in private practice you are serving many clients in many industries. “When you are in a company you gain great insight into what a company’s expectations are of outside counsel. An attorney that has seen both sides has a more rounded view of the practice of law.”

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