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An abundance of candidates means the Italian legal market looks optimistic for businesses in 2015

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/03/15

In-house or Private Practice is a question that lawyers will always ask themselves when considering their career path. Well, in 2014 there was a stark contrast in the performance of the two sectors.

The Italian in-house market was much busier than in previous years as there was a greater number of roles for legal and compliance professionals. This was due to a number of circumstances including the restructuring of legal departments, a careful internal review of costs which resulted in a reduction of work sent to law firms which resulted in an increased need of lawyers in-house. Unlike in the past years, companies in Italy are appreciating the value of having good quality in-house lawyers. 

However, while there has been an increase in jobs in the legal market companies have set very strict criteria to fill these roles resulting in many good lawyers still unable to find a job. Remuneration has remained unchanged for the most part and we have even seen some lawyers take a pay decrease.  I don’t expect salary levels to change much this year.

While things look relatively positive for the in-house legal sector, I can’t say the same for private practice as last year was certainly not an easy one. The trend we saw started in 2012 and has continued throughout the last three years – a decrease in work as well as a willingness for companies to pay less caused firms to review their expenditure resulting in the restructuring or the reduction of team sizes. Unfortunately, I don’t expect any difference in 2015. This situation is causing private practice lawyers to move in-house or even start their own practice. I anticipate this will continue throughout 2015.

One positive difference between private practice and in-house is remuneration. For the most part, lawyers in private practice receive a higher salary compared to their in-house counterparts and the gap seems to be widening. Again, I expect this to continue for the foreseeable future.

While companies restructure their in-house legal teams, they will refer to law firms only for specific issues. Perhaps as a result of these changes, there remain a high number of senior lawyers considering the in-house option as an alternative career. In contrast, options for a career in private practice at the mid-junior level remain good.