What those of us who didn’t pay much attention to Latin class in grade school quickly learned upon entering law school is how indigenous Latin phraseology is to the legal profession. As it turns out, we couldn’t avoid learning some Latin even though we did not go to medical school. Tossing around a few choice Latin phrases—quantum meruit, amicus curiae, habeas corpus, and of course the unforgettable res ipsa loquitur—were likely enough to persuade our relatives by Thanksgiving break of our 1-L years that we were actually learning something. But one Latin phrase less often utilized in “legalese,” though no less important in the legal profession, is “experientia docet”—experience is the best teacher.
For law firms, experience comes in many forms and can largely be a product of the environment in which a firm trains and mentors its younger lawyers (that and a few grey hairs here and there). But experience that can also prove to be invaluable is experience born of practicing in environments other than a traditional law firm, the two most common being a career as a former government or in-house lawyer. In the modern legal environment, the movement of attorneys into and out of government or in-house positions is substantially more bidirectional than it was historically, when lawyers mostly entered practice after a government stint, or, in the case of in-house positions, moved in the opposite direction. In present day, it is much more common than in the past for a law firm to have its fair share of lawyers with in-house and government experience.