The demand for in-house legal counsel has increased over recent years. This is especially the case within emerging sectors such as FinTech and Challenger banks. FinTech innovation in recent years has disrupted the traditional high street bank. Investment and funding within the sector have been increasing even throughout lockdown. All indications show that these sectors will continue to thrive.

When in your legal career do you make the switch to in-house counsel? There seems to be a misconception within private practice, newly qualified professionals are often told they need to complete a minimum of 5 years before moving in-house. This is not necessarily the case. Although private practice can offer broad, high-quality experience, businesses are able to give their counsel more commercial exposure. Trends seem to indicate that commercial organisations are willing to hire all levels of in-house counsel from a few years PQE and up.

In terms of FinTech and Challenger Bank legal counsel, there is no one size fits all. Your love of tech and understanding of AI and DeFi may have piqued your interest into moving in-house. However, you need to be savvy with Fundraising, IP, SaaS contracts, and support the business in all facets, especially as it is scaling. The rewards for moving to in-house legal counsel come from being completely embedded as part of the team and commercial operation of the company. Here you are not just the lawyer in the room.

What does the in-house legal counsel role involve?

  • You are no longer in private practice so your balance between risk and commercial becomes razor focused.
  • The ‘firm-honed’ skills you have need to be adapted fast as you become a part of the commercial reality.
  • You become part of the dialogue within the company and with stakeholders.
  • You understand the business and evolve with it.
  • Commercial business can often come with a little chaos, you are able to roll with it because it invigorates and energises you.
  • You are able to turn your legal skills into a vehicle for innovation.

What does the in-house legal counsel role mean in FinTech and Challenger Banks?

  • You must transition from being an advisor, and often blocker, to becoming a business enabler. Always asking questions, and staying in the present.
  • Ask the questions. Why are we doing this? Who are we doing it for? The only way to get your hands dirty is by digging deep into the operations of the company, and understanding from the ground level up who is doing what and how they do it.
  • You develop a 360-degree view. This means you do not stay in your office and only talk to the C-suite; you are out there understanding how the numbers work and how the money is made so that when you are asked for advice your view is holistic.
  • Your stakeholders will constantly change from shareholders, to NEDs to employees to regulators. Agility and diplomacy are key skills when you work with multiple players.
  • You understand what makes the company profitable and what is central to the company. You are an enabler who understands the strategy and is comfortable with the numbers.
  • On any given day you are across the scope of the role, from drafting NDAs to being the founders’ ‘right-hand person’.  

If you are interested in transitioning to in-house counsel, our legal expert Susan can help. From putting together a shortlist of companies to approach, assessing your values and finding your cultural fit with an organisation, to preparation for interview, or negotiation on a package more than just remuneration. Get in touch to discuss your requirements.