Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Private practice to in-house: what the transition looks like

BridgeTower Media Newswires//April 29, 2014

Private practice to in-house: what the transition looks like

BridgeTower Media Newswires//April 29, 2014

Just under two years ago, I went in-house as the employment compliance attorney at Quicken Loans. I made this move after 16 years in private practice as an employment and labor defense attorney. It’s no secret that Quicken Loans’ founder, Dan Gilbert, is devoted to the city of Detroit and moved all of his Rock Holdings entities, which includes the Quicken Loans’ headquarters, from the suburbs to the city. I grew up in Detroit and the commitment to the city is one of the many reasons I wanted to join Quicken Loans.

I am now in a role that doesn’t require me to wear a suit and I no longer go to court, arbitrations, depositions or chicken dinners to meet potential clients. I enjoy casual dress and a colorful work environment. My in-house attorney office is not the Detroit River water view I once cherished, but instead an interior office with two orange walls, a lime green wall and purple chairs. I have a water view “Fathead” on my wall that gives me a great view of the Detroit skyline.

I work with a team of dynamic, interesting and inspiring people throughout the business. The company has a strong culture with 19 company ISMs, or guiding principles, that we live by. A few include, “Do the right thing,” “Always raising your level of awareness,” “Simplicity is genius,” “We’ll figure it out,” and my favorite ISM, “Every second counts.” Each private office has an ISM on the cabinet. On my first day, I walked into my office and read another ISM on the wall, “Responding with a sense of urgency is the ante to play.” These ISMs and the other 14, make for a great, simple playbook for what is expected of in-house counsel.

Quicken Loans has grown considerably over the past few years and a “typical” day in-house as an employment compliance attorney may involve legal research, drafting or reviewing documents, investigation, interviewing, analysis, agency responses, emails, meetings, training and anything else that comes my way. The one certainty is that every day is unique and demanding — the days fly.

An in-house attorney is a risk assessment counselor to the business leaders. To do this, you must know the law — which is an ongoing, lifetime commitment, and be able to explain it in a way that can be understood by nonlawyers.

My in-house role allows me to use my business acumen, legal expertise and enjoyment of people. I do my absolute best to deliver my product in real time with an understanding of the urgency and concern the business leader is facing. The internal clients, like the external ones I represented in private practice, expect to be treated like the most important client and the only one whose needs matter at that moment. To deliver this level of service requires the ability to multitask, to maintain high energy and to work with a great team.

Providing top service to a wide range of people inside a business is not possible without the contribution and benefit of great team work. The legal team includes attorneys, paralegals and a variety of compliance specialists who provide full service support to the business and to each other. The legal team also hires legal interns who are typically law students or recent law graduates. Our goal is to provide the interns with a responsible and meaningful work experience as well as a positive and informative Detroit experience. The interns provide me with support and help research many of the issues that creep onto the compliance attorney’s desk in need of an answer.

In some ways, what I do is the same as what I did in private practice — I provide real time advice and navigate through the endless fact-intensive scenarios that make up the world of human resources.  In-house, I get to work with the same clients and with each project, I learn more about the business and its most important asset, the people.

I am working longer hours than I did in private practice. Yet even with working longer and harder, I am very satisfied because of the company environment, culture and the people, and because in-house counsel can dig deep, learn and be the best lawyer possible for its client without having to worry about the billable hour.

– By Rebecca Simkins. Simkins is associate corporate counsel at Quicken Loans, where she focuses on labor and employment compliance. She previously was in private practice with the Detroit firm of Barris, Sott, Denn & Driker PLLC.

Verdicts & Settlements

See All Verdicts & Settlements

Opinion Digests

See All Digests