Some private sector lawyers, instead of working in a law firm, work for a company that has constant legal needs. These businesses find it more effective—both in terms of time and cost—to employ lawyers directly "in house" rather than hiring outside law firms. These "in house" lawyers use their legal education and training to further the company’s mission while mitigating risks. More commonly, it is the larger businesses that have the resources and legal needs to justify the expense necessary to hire "in house" lawyers. In fact, some large businesses may have hundreds of lawyers who work "in house." But even some smaller companies hire lawyers to optimize their missions. In many of these situations, the lawyers may also serve other non-legal business functions, such as compliance or risk management.
Within in-house law departments, lawyers serve different roles. While different companies may have different terms for these roles, some commonly used terms other than "in house counsel" include: (1) General Counsel, the lead lawyer for the business; (2) Chief Legal Officer, the lawyer who oversees and is responsible for the company’s legal affairs; and (3) Corporate Counsel, a lawyer who generally performs corporate or transactional work for the company. Lawyers also add value in many other business roles, but here again, some of these roles may include non-legal business functions. Many in-house lawyers join companies after first working in law firms or for the government.
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