Heriot Brown

If you’re currently an in-house law professional but you’ve been yearning for a change, a move to a new industry could be just the ticket.  

There are lots of directions to choose from, including commerce, energy, technology, financial services, fintech and pharmaceutical. But just how easy is it to make a sideways move into a whole new sector?  

The good news is that it isn’t impossible for in-house lawyers to shift sectors. However, you may need to adjust your expectations.  

The longer you’ve been in your current industry, the more difficult it may be to move elsewhere. You’ll have built up extensive experience in your specialist sector while having virtually none in the industry you aspire to work in. Employers will be looking for someone who understands the finer points and particulars of their industry and has built up specialist skills and a network of contacts and peers.  

If you do want to make the transition, you’ll need to do your homework. Here are some key things to think about: 

  • Choose a closely related industry  

One of the easiest ways to switch sectors is to choose something closely related to what you’re already doing. Look for a natural sidestep, for example – moving from pharmaceuticals to a medical device company. It may not be the totally clean break you’re looking for, but it could be the first step on a gradual move into a new sector.   

  • Stay in the family 

If you work for a large organisation with a presence in multiple sectors, it may even be possible to move into another branch. You’ll have an established track record with the firm, so they’ll be more likely to give you a chance in a new sector.   

  • Take advantage of your connections 

Is there someone influential in your network who works in the sector you’d like to move into? This contact could be hugely valuable, helping you to get introduced to the key players within the sector. If you don’t have these connections yet, you may need to put the career change on pause temporarily – just while you put in the work to build up your network.  

  • Identify your transferable skills 

A useful exercise before searching for a new role is to list all your achievements, the complex cases you’ve successfully managed, your contributions to important projects and the challenges you’ve overcome. This is hugely confidence-building, which is crucial ahead of the move you want to make. Discuss this list with a mentor, identifying transferable skills and ways you can showcase them confidently at the interview.   

  • Find out everything you can about the new industry 

First of all, make sure you can answer the classic interview question – ‘why do you want to move into X sector?’. You’ll also need to start building a network of contacts within the industry, researching organisations you want to work for and expanding your knowledge of the sector as a whole.  

  • Consider a move to a smaller company 

One way to get your foot in the door of a new industry is to downside to a smaller firm, where your overall experience will be valued over a specific industry background. This could be a great stepping stone to working for a larger organisation, should this be your long-term ambition. 

Find your next rewarding opportunity in law with Heriot Brown, where we specialise in helping legal professionals lead more fulfilling careers. Get in touch to start your search 

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