Legal Law

Tea Time: In-Home v. Biglaw

I love being in-house. Full stop.

At the same time, let’s not bury the lede. Going in-house is not all rainbows and butterflies all the time.

This is the post that my non-in-house folks have been waiting for — the post about some of the possible cons of going in-house.

So, in no particular order, here are some things that may make me miss Biglaw the tiniest bit.

My Downtown High-Rise Office

Don’t get me wrong. I work in a gorgeous new headquarters with a gym, a Starbucks, a juice station, and a mini-Wal-Mart with a pharmacy. I am so grateful. At the same time, I sometimes miss my former spacious office in downtown Dallas on the 15th floor of a high rise, overlooking the Dallas Museum of Art. Yes, I spent way too much time in that office, often envying all those who frolicked on the green lawn of the museum, but it was beautiful and mine to freely decorate. While I do have a private space now (where I cannot deface the walls with even tape), I initially was in an open workspace (aka cubicle), where I had to get used to working around others’ conversations (and loud chewing), and where I had to book a conference room or find a phone room to have privileged conversations.

Administrative Assistant

Yet another #firstworldproblem — I can sense your eye roll, but I greatly miss having an administrative assistant who doubled as a personal assistant, who basically handled all things nonbillable so I could just work. While our in-house team currently has an amazing administrative assistant, the nine of us have to share her, including my associate general counsel. This means that I often make my own copies, do my own expense reports, and register for and schedule my own CLEs. (I know that you’re crying me a river right now).

Other Bougie Perks

Last shallow one I promise — I miss staying at the Four Seasons and Omni and J.W. Marriott and flying business class and not worrying about a per diem. In contrast, I distinctly remember one of my trips to interview for my current job. They accommodated me at the Holiday Inn closest to the airport (I put a chair against the front door and slept on top of the sheets) and had to drive a rental that still had roll-up windows. I figured it was a test they put all candidates through. While I have yet to stay at such humble accommodations now that I’m in-house, I am ever mindful of my obligation to be prudent with company money because I am a cost center.

Minimal Bureaucracy

This probably depends on the size of the company you’re at and its culture, but when you’re used to the fast pace of firm life, waiting for decisions to be made in-house can feel glacial, especially if a lot of stakeholders have to be consulted. I find that in-house politics is also more complex. Where power tends to be hierarchical and based on books of business at a firm, it’s hard to tell at a company who has influence.

Growth And Opportunity

Depending on the company, going in-house can feel stagnant, especially if you don’t proactively seek growth and development. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself on automatic pilot, “clocking in and out,” only to find yourself doing the same thing for 10 years. Organizations can also be flat, with promotions being improbable no matter how stellar you are just because there is a lack of openings until someone retires or leaves. Compensation may also be set, regardless of how much you work.

Ride Or Dies

While I love my in-house team, and I have certainly found a small tribe, there was just something extra about going through the trenches of litigation with other young lawyers, ordering pizza late at night at the office or working through Christmas on an appellate brief together — that creates a bond. Hazing maybe? It’s a culmination of associate lunches, traveling to depositions, trainings and retreats, and closed door meetings where we could safely vent and if needed, cry. Jokes aside, it’s hard to replicate the same camaraderie when you only see your teammates 9 to 5 and hardly travel together.

None of these things would make me go back to Biglaw because I absolutely love my job, but when nostalgia visits, these are a few things that come to mind. For my in-house colleagues, what else would add?


Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.

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