This article is written by Adv. Priyanka. It is an exhaustive article shedding light on the career opportunities that an in-house counsel has in India along with the aspect of why working as an in-house counsel is better, the challenges that in-house counsel faces, related career prospects, skills required to be an in-house counsel and specific FAQs that law professionals must know in relation to the career opportunities as an in-house counsel in India.

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The legal guardian of an Indian company, the person who helps the companies to sail their ship smoothly without facing any legal hurdles and ensures all the legal compliances, drafts and reviews contracts, is the in-house counsel. The real legal superhero behind the door.

Want to know how to find an in-house counsel job in India, how is an in-house counsel job different from those lawyers working in law firms, whether in-house counsel really a nine-to-five job and various other details about in-house counsel? Watch this webinar to learn how to succeed as an in-house counsel and get answers to all your questions.

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Who is an in-house counsel 

The CEO of Reebok once made a witty remark to his in-house counsel, “I hate lawyers but not you, you don’t count.” Does this mean that in-house counsel are different from advocates? Who is an in-house counsel? Are they similar to practising advocates or just corporate employees? What are their roles and responsibilities?

Starting with, who is an in-house counsel? An in-house counsel is a lawyer who is not working in a law firm or doing his or her practice but rather working for a company, government agency or any other organisation. This role helps the in-house counsel to develop an in-depth knowledge of the organisation’s operations, its objective, and its working. Their role primarily involves advising and guiding the company they are working in on legal issues/matters.

A company doesn’t consist of only one in-house counsel handling the entire company’s legal matters/issues but there is a team behind it! India Business Law Journal conducted In-house Counsel Awards 2023-24 and the best in-house legal team of the year was the Legal Risk Management Team at YES Bank. The in-house legal team contributes to the success of the company and plays an important role in ensuring that the company’s operation is within the boundaries set by the law.

Is this the right time to become an in-house counsel

Michael Coates, Senior Vice-chair of IBC Corporate and Corporate and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer at Shell plc said, “In years gone by, many in-house counsels left it to the law firms to negotiate their transactions, but now we are seeing in-house counsel as key members of the negotiating team and, quite often, leading deal negotiations”.

Yes, this is the right time to become an in-house counsel in India because of the following reasons:

Increasing jobs

In-house counsel has extensive knowledge about the corporate culture and the legal framework applicable in the companies and provides extensive strategies to face the potential legal risks. The Association of Corporate Counsel has said that India has one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing in-house populations. There were almost 12000 in-house counsels in 2023.

Regulation of economy

The Indian economy is being formalised, regulated and digitised therefore the requirement for in-house counsel is increasing. The regulatory compliances for companies are getting updated and more contracts are being signed.

Work-life balance

We all have started giving priority to our health but thinking about work-life balance in litigation is a dream. According to the survey done by Legally India, about 72% of the in-house counsels have better work-life balance than those lawyers working in law firms.

Roles and responsibilities as an in-house counsel in India 

About 20 years back, the work of an in-house counsel was confined to ensuring regulatory compliance and other regular matters like attending/appearing before the courts or tribunals. However, in the present time, factors like continuous upgradation in technology and globalisation have made the companies more complex which has broadened the role of in-house counsels. For example, when a company plans to establish its new business line or acquire a new business, it is the in-house counsel who steps in with the legal knowledge about the rules, regulations and other legal compliances that need to be fulfilled. An in-house counsel can be said to be the hero behind the curtains and the backbone of the company. 

Apart from being a go-to legal professional for all legal matters be it drafting, appearing before the Hon’ble courts or tribunals and staying up-to-date with regulatory changes, the following are the roles and responsibilities of the in-house counsel:

Risk management

Looking after the interests of the company is one of the important responsibilities of an in-house counsel. It includes identifying, analysing and developing strategies to mitigate the legal risks that can affect the company’s operations and goodwill. To manage the risk, the in-house counsel should be proactive and understand the functioning of the business, the legal rules and regulations and the external factors as well. 

Let us understand this by an example, consider yourself as an in-house counsel of a company which deals with chemicals. In the company, your role will be to analyse, identify and develop strategies for mitigating the possible legal risks. One of the risks you identified is that a certain chemical used in your company is subject to strict compliance with the laws, especially environmental laws. In the event of a breach of the laws the company will have to be fined or depending on the nature can even lead to the closure of the company. Here are some risk management strategies you might develop:

  • Lay down specific and clear guidelines to handle and dispose of dangerous chemicals.
  • Stay abreast with the laws and legal compliances, so that they can be effectively and without any delay complied with.
  • Set up a tracking system to evaluate the company’s energy consumption, waste production, water pollution and other key environmental metrics.

Dispute resolution

It means solving a conflict or disagreement between the parties in an amicable and peaceful manner. An in-house counsel while resolving such conflicts or disagreements must keep in mind that the relationship between both parties is maintained and there is a win-win situation for both parties and the cost involved should be minimal. The dispute can be resolved through mediation, arbitration, negotiation and litigation.

Consider yourself as an in-house counsel of a manufacturing company. Your company entered into a contract with ABC company for delivery of raw materials. However, there arose a dispute due to a breach of agreement where the supplier claims that your company did not make the payment timely even after delivery of the goods while your company states that the quality of the raw material delivered was not good therefore, the payment was not made. Your course of action to solve this dispute will be:

  • A detailed review of the contract between the parties along with the raw materials delivered. This will help you understand and analyse the main issue of the dispute and the relevant clause which is against/for.
  • Rather than directly going before the court, you will first communicate with the supplier and try to resolve the dispute amicably. Negotiation is the tool!
  • If you are not able to negotiate, suggest arbitration or mediation where a third person will help the parties to settle the dispute.
  • Lastly, if arbitration or mediation also fails, file a case before the relevant court. Herein you need to minutely analyse all the evidence, clauses and identify the relevant regulations/rules in your company’s favour. You will be drafting the application and attending the hearings.

Contract management

Another responsibility of an in-house counsel is to oversee the contracts that the company is entering. Starting from the drafting of the contract and execution (not to forget termination) of the contract, an in-house counsel takes care of every minute detail. Suppose you are an in-house counsel of an IT company; your company and ABC company enter into a contract to develop a website. Your course of action for contract management will be:

  • The first thing would be drafting the contract. While drafting you will ensure to incorporate all the important clauses like the scope of work, breach of contract, payment schedule, timelines etc. The words and the legal terms that are used in the contracts play an important role, therefore, the contract should be drafted with utmost care and diligence.
  • Once the contract is drafted, a thorough contract review is done to ensure all the clauses are drafted correctly, that there is no ambiguous language etc.
  • Then, after negotiations the contract is finalised and all set to be signed by the parties. Here the role of the in-house counsel is to seek necessary approvals (if any) for executing the contract.
  • The next step is the implementation of the contract wherein the in-house counsel will be working together with the team to comply with every provision of the contract.
  • Once the project is complete, ABC company has two options. Either they can renew their contract if they like the work of your company or they can terminate the contract if they are not satisfied with the work. Nevertheless, the contract can also be terminated in the middle of the project. In both cases, the clause mentioned in the contract needs to be complied with.
  • Lastly, all the documents related to the contract must be retained. An in-house counsel maintains all the documentation.

Regulatory compliances

Criminal litigation

An in-house counsel is responsible for complying with all the relevant rules, regulations, codes and guidelines as laid down by the regulatory bodies and the government authorities. An in-house counsel working in the food industry must adhere to various regulations governing the food industry. The following steps must be taken by the in-house counsel to ensure timely compliance are done:

  • The first step should be to understand the food industry, the laws and the compliances issued that are applicable to the industry. Some of the laws applicable to the food industry are the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, Food Safety and Standards (Laboratory and Sample Analysis) Regulations 2011, Trademark Act 1999, etc.
  • The next step will be to check if your company has been complying with the necessary laws. This can be done by checking if relevant licences (import/export, manufacturing etc) and approvals have been taken and necessary forms (Form D-1 for annual return etc) have been filed in a time-bound manner.
  • Working closely and monitoring the compliance team and the quality assurance team ensuring that the safety standards are maintained.
  • Reviewing and approving the product label and also the advertisement to ensure that they comply with the legal standards and nothing unethical or illegal is printed on the label or shown to the audience.
  • The government officials keep an eye on the companies and they can come for surprise visits to check if the standards are being maintained and complied with. Therefore, the in-house counsel must be prepared for it.
  • Lastly, keeping a record of every document (namely relevant applications, reports, forms receipt, audit register etc) is a must! This will help you in future in case any legal issue is raised regarding non-compliance.

Legal duties

The main responsibility of an in-house counsel is to safeguard the company by preparing measures to prevent litigation in future and continuously monitor the activities of the company. Talking about litigation, it is always good that an in-house counsel tries to avoid litigation in cases where there is a dispute or disagreement between the company (he is working in) and a third person (vendor, government, supplier, customer etc.). But, we also know this might not always be possible. In the cases where litigation can’t be avoided, an in-house counsel must get ready for the legal battle in the court. In this case, an in-house counsel’s responsibilities include drafting the applications, affidavits, written statements, counter-affidavits, evidence collection, negotiations and appearing before the courts.

Maintaining an ethical culture

“Fostering a strong ethical culture is more than a responsibility for business today.” Wondering how an in-house counsel can maintain an ethical culture? 

Below listed are some ways through which an ethical culture can be maintained in the company and in its business operations:

  • There should be a set of guidelines and policies showcasing the company’s values and principles. These are to be drafted by the in-house counsels who will ensure that all the relevant points like sexual harassment, bribery, causing disturbance, corruption, penalties, conduct of employees and employers etc are included in it.
  • Companies should organise training programmes in the company to make the employees aware of ethical issues, code of conduct, reporting mechanisms for ethical violations, whistleblower policy, etc.
  • The in-house counsel being a legal professional should be disciplined and comply with all the regulations laid down. Being the backbone of the company, in-house counsel 
  • Monthly/quarterly checks should be conducted to ensure that the guidelines are being followed and to identify if any area needs to be strengthened. Feedback can also be taken from employees. 

Educational qualifications required to become an in-house counsel in India

The basic qualification that is needed to become an in-house counsel is the completion of an LLB degree from an accredited law school/university. Gaining relevant experience through internships can help in securing a position as in-house counsel. Furthermore, continuous learning is the key to upgrading yourself and advancing your professional development through various online courses, diploma courses in corporate law, attending legal conferences etc.

The focus while studying law should be on corporate law and contract law, as these laws are commonly used in companies. One can also do a masters in corporate law for an in-depth understanding of the company’s structure and the laws that apply to companies.

Key legislation for in-house counsels

Every decision taken by the company has a legal impact and an in-house counsel must ensure that the decision of the company is legally correct. The in-house counsel is the legal guardian of the company. From knowing the compliances in company law to the complex tax laws, your domain should not be restricted! Here are some basic laws that an in-house counsel should know:

The Companies Act, 2013

The Companies Act, 2013 regulates the formation and functioning of companies and lays down the rights, duties and liabilities of the company and its members. Imagine yourself as an in-house counsel and you need to draft an agreement for a new venture of the company, before drafting the agreement you need to know the relevant sections which will be applicable and the relevant compliances with the act.

Intellectual Property laws

The laws relating to IPRs provide legal protection to the creative mind by providing them an exclusive right to safeguard their creation. An in-house counsel has to ensure that the company’s products are protected and not prone to infringement and misuse therefore, having knowledge about the Intellectual property laws which provide what work kind of protection is given by patents, the procedure for registration of trademark, infringement and remedies.  Some of the legislations that the in-house counsel should know are the Copyright Act, 1957, Patent Act, 1970, etc.

Consumer Protection Act, 2019

This Act is a shield for consumer rights. In-house counsels need to strictly follow the Consumer Protection Act, 2019. For instance, while introducing a new product in the market, the in-house counsel has to ensure that the labelling is done in accordance with the law, the advertisement is legally correct etc.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872

Without a contract, no company can run smoothly. It defines the rights, obligations, and liabilities of parties, how a contract can be terminated and the consequences in case of breach of contract. An in-house counsel has to draft, review and negotiate contracts, understand the legal principles in the event of a breach of contract and comply with the relevant laws and regulations as per the Indian Contract Act, 1872.

The laws are not limited to these four. The in-house counsel should also have knowledge about employment laws, environment laws, technology laws, data protection laws, competition laws etc.

Career path of an in-house counsel in the Indian corporate sector 

The Indian corporate sector offers various career opportunities for an in-house counsel across a wide range of industries. Here are some of the industries where an in-house counsel can work in:


According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the pharmaceutical industry in India is about 2% of India’s GDP. The role of in-house counsel in the pharmaceutical industry is to provide legal advice and represent the company before courts/tribunals on legal matters. Apart from this, regulatory compliance, various approvals for drugs from government authorities and Intellectual property issues will also be handled by the in-house counsel. The in-house counsel should understand in detail, the pharmaceutical industry, the compliances they need to follow and the laws applicable to the industry. The compliance standards are very strict and breach of those standards can lead to heavy penalties. Some of the laws in which the in-house counsel must be well versed include the Drug (Price Control) Order, 1995, Trade Marks Act, 1999, Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940, Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act 1954, etc.


India’s technology sector is booming. Currently, the evolution of Artificial Intelligence has made a significant impact on the technology. The minister of State for skill development entrepreneurship and electronic and information technology has said that soon a draft for artificial intelligence will be there.  

An in-house counsel is responsible for contract drafting, data privacy compliances, licensing agreements, cybersecurity and data breach attacks, intellectual property protection and creating internal policies. Some of the important laws related to the technology industry that in-house counsel should be well versed with are the Information Technology Act, 2000, the Digital Personal Data Protect Act, 2023, the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Medica Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 etc.


The insurance sector is regulated by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), which has laid down certain licensing requirements, product guidelines and regulations to govern the insurance sector. An in-house counsel has to look after all these requirements/guidelines and comply with them. Other works include policy documentation and review, claim management, litigation for and against the insurance company, and advice on legal issues relating to consumer protection laws, unfair trade practices and market standards.


The Indian telecommunication sector has become the world’s second-largest telecom market. Since the industry is increasing, so are the legal issues. These legal issues are handled and resolved by the in-house counsels. The role and responsibilities of an in-house counsel include drafting and reviewing the agreements, handling litigation and legal disputes related to licensing, data security and privacy concerns, network infrastructure, consumer rights etc. The regulations that the in-house counsel should have knowledge about are the Information Technology Act 2000, The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 1997, the National Digital Communication Policy, 2018 and other relevant acts.


Nestle India Limited, ITC Limited, Hindustan Unilever Limited and Britannia Industries Limited are some of the food industries that hire in-house counsels to ensure that their company is complying with the regulations imposed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and other regulatory bodies, address requirements related to packing, labelling hygiene standards, provide legal guidance on product development (labelling standards, allergen declarations etc), protecting the trademark, copyright and patents of the company’s products, draft contracts and negotiate with the third parties, advice on legal issues regarding the advertisement and marketing campaigns, manage litigation for and against the company and to stay abreast with the emerging legal laws, regulations and guidelines.


Companies like NTPC Limited, Tata Power and Oil and Natural Gas Corporation hire in-house counsel to look after all the legal compliances issued by the Ministry of Power, Petroleum and Natural Gas, Central Electricity Regulatory  Commission and state electricity regulatory commissions, assist in the negotiation of project financing transactions for energy infrastructure projects (including pipelines, power plants etc), draft and review various agreements including transmission agreement joint venture agreement, power purchase agreement etc, comply with the environment laws and regulations which govern the pollution, waste and emissions standards, conducting due diligence and negotiations for land acquisition projects

Real estate

Did you know the real estate sector is expected to reach a market of one trillion dollars by the end of 2030? The role of in-house counsel in the real estate industry includes handling all the legal aspects of land acquisition for real estate projects (due diligence, negotiation of sale deed, drafting sale deed, compliance with the land laws), drafting and negotiating various types of agreements including sale agreement and lease agreement, obtaining necessary approvals for land development and construction projects and handling all the legal disputes. An in-house counsel should know about real estate laws like the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, Transfer of Property Act, 1882, the Registration Act 1908 etc. DLF Limited, Godrej Properties Limited and Prestige Group are some of the real estate industries that hire in-house counsels.

Media and entertainment

As an in-house counsel in the media and entertainment sector, your role will be drafting various contracts and agreements like production contracts, director agreements and actor agreements etc, ensuring intellectual property rights are protected, advice on legal issues related to compliance, music licensing etc, ensuring compliance with government agencies like Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Board of Film Certification etc. Moreover, you will be taking legal action against piracy, infringement of copyright, unauthorised use of logos, trademarks etc. The sector will bring new legal challenges and opportunities every day.

Companies like Walt Disney, Reliance Entertainment and Sony Pictures Network India do hire in-counsels to manage their day-to-day legal affairs. Keep an eye on their website for any such vacancy!


Maruti Suzuki India Limited, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited and Tata Motors Limited are the leaders in the automotive sector. Working in these companies will give your career good growth.

As an in-house counsel, your responsibility will be to ensure the company’s automotive products comply with the safety standards and regulations, handle the legal disputes arising due to product defects and warranty claims and ensure compliance with the regulations imposed by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways,  Bureau of Indian Standards and other regulatory bodies, negotiating and drafting of agreements, taking approvals for licensing from government, complying with the environmental laws governing automotive sector and staying updated with the government policies on electric vehicles etc

Why choose to become an in-house counsel

One of the Association of Corporate Counsel members rightly said “The beauty of in-house counsel is that every day brings new challenges and experiences”.

We all have seen that the majority of students after completing their law degree, prefer going to a reputed law firm rather than going in-house. But they don’t know that choosing to become an in-house counsel offers various advantages:

No billable working hours

The law firms generally charge their clients based on the time they have spent working on the case (including drafting, researching, attending meetings, negotiating and representing clients in the court). Billable working hours are a key performance indicator of the lawyers working in law firms. They have to meet monthly or quarterly billing targets. Depending on the billing hours, they are compensated and given promotions. Don’t you think this creates pressure on the lawyers and might lead to frustration among them?

However, an in-house counsel doesn’t have any such billable working hours system. The company pays their in-house counsel by monthly salaries/benefits/bonuses.

Work-life balance

One of my friend’s work experience working in a law firm. According to him, working in a law firm is pretty tiring. He never used to come back home at 6 pm (that’s when his official office timings were) and always ended up going back home by 8 pm because of the workload. I have even heard of my friend staying back at his office due to workload and deadlines and working on weekends as well. On the contrary, some of those who are working as in-house counsel have fixed working hours (except when there is a workload), don’t work on weekends, and have flexible work arrangements.

Career progression

As a lawyer in a law firm with zero experience, you join as a junior associate, get promoted to a senior associate and then a direct partner (that’s not even confirmed). Whereas, in companies, the positions are in-house counsel, senior in-house counsel, specialist, general counsel, Chief Legal Officer and Board member (may be appointed as). The career progression as an in-house counsel is broader and can be obtained easily as compared to law firms.

Variety of work

If you are under the impression that becoming an in-house counsel will restrict your knowledge and you will be working only under one law, then you are WRONG. The companies have more diverse and complex transactions to work on. From contract drafting to negotiation, regulatory compliances, risk management and dispute resolution everything is handled by an in-house counsel.

Overseas assignment

Working on overseas assignments as an in-house counsel can broaden their practical experience and also build networks. In India, many big companies operate globally. Working as an in-house counsel in these companies can enhance your knowledge about international business operations and legal frameworks. Moreover, this will help in professional growth and development. Many companies in India also send their in-house counsel outside India to work with their client on the legal assignment where the client lives. How cool is that?

Challenges faced by an in-house counsel in India

As we all know and have seen there has been a significant change in the role of in-house counsel in India. Earlier their role was limited to providing legal advice. However, today, the whole company is managed legally, and safeguarded against legal risks, and strategies are planned to mitigate potential legal risks. Since their role has broadened, so have the challenges that they might face.

Complex legal environment

The Indian legal system has numerous laws, rules, regulations, and guidelines laid down for the regulation of businesses. It sometimes becomes a task to comply with all of them. Moreover, these laws and regulations are continuously being changed and amended, making it difficult for the in-house counsel to stay up to date with them. Keeping abreast with the legal developments and implementing them in the company is important but can be a time-consuming process.

Overseeing litigation

The in-house counsel is so engrossed in ensuring that the company is complying with all the regulatory compliances and preparing strategies for potential legal risks and internal legal compliances that they forget to manage the legal disputes and litigation matters, including outsourcing lawyers for litigation matters, preparing written statements, controlling costs etc.

Technology transformation

Remember during the time of COVID-19, how hearings went online and lawyers faced problems while attending the hearings? Well, that’s true in the case of in-house counsels as well. They avoid changing and adapting new technologies, and they prefer to spend hours doing a simple job that can be done in less time using software. There are many software that are not easy to learn and learning to use these requires a significant time.

Managing external lawyers/law firms

There are a lot of cases pending in the court against companies. It is practically not possible for the in-house counsel to attend them all. Therefore, external lawyers/law firms are hired to manage their litigation matters. However, many times confusion/dispute may arise between these two parties due to a lack of communication, billing practices, unexpected expenses, quality of work etc.

Strategies to survive and thrive in times of uncertainty and change

There is no denying that in-house counsels play a pivotal role in companies/organisations dealing with complex legal matters. However, the current environment is changing and is uncertain like competition, layoffs, downfall in business, etc. The question that arises here is, what can an in-house counsel do to survive and thrive amidst uncertainty and change? Here are some strategies that can help an in-house counsel to strive and thrive in times of uncertainty and change:

Stay informed

An in-house counsel must stay updated about legal developments, emerging trends, and regulatory compliances. For example, if the company is a pharmaceutical company, the in-house counsel must constantly keep an eye on the Food and Drug Administration regulations/rules amendments so that if there is any amendment in the regulations/rules, the same can be complied with the existing drug or new drug process. 

Embrace the change positively

The uncertainty and change can be due to our decisions, imposed by external forces or a combination of both. No matter what the change is, an in-house counsel must be prepared for it. With change comes opportunities, and if in-house counsel has the right mindset, then those hard times will sail away swiftly.


There are situations when you are alone and as an in-house counsel, you are not able to handle it or find a solution to it. So, what do you do in such a case? It is simple. Work as a team as it is much easier to face and deal with such situations in a team rather than alone. You can:

  • Do team meetings
  • Keep things transparent between each other
  • Ask each other for help whenever needed
  • Always be ready to help
  • Be kind to each other

Enhance your skillset

Continuous development of your skill set is important too! As an in-house counsel, you should broaden your skill set not only in the area of your expertise but also in areas where you lag and the ones that are emerging like cyber laws. Let us explain this by an example, if you are a lawyer specialising in commercial contracts, you can learn data privacy. You should not restrict yourself to the work that is given to you or your legal department because you never know what new may come out of the blue. 

Flexible approach

There is a Spanish proverb, “Stubborn men make lawyers”. How many of you agree that lawyers are stubborn? Adapting new changes in the legal system is not accepted by many of the lawyers. However, in-house counsels should always be ready to adapt to new laws/legal compliances. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a few of the in-house counsels and their teams smoothly adjusted the clauses related to the COVID-19 pandemic after discussing it with the other party. 

Enhance your soft skills

In-house counsel has to interact with the company’s clients. Therefore, they must know how to present their knowledge. You can always control how you respond to situations. An in-house counsel must have the following soft skills (the list is not exhaustive):

  • Problem-solving
  • Proactive
  • Active listening
  • Good communication skills
  • Flexibility
  • Responsibility
  • Working well under pressure
  • Positive attitude

Be practical

All the points I have discussed above are fine, but what comes on top is “being practical”. Like, when you as an in-house counsel are negotiating a contract at a time when the economy is changing and emerging, the first thing that you need to prioritise is the clauses of the contract, they should not only be in your favour but the third party should also be satisfied with it. Win-win situation! You should be practical while giving legal advice and always be practical with your time (every second counts).

Throughout the journey as an in-house counsel, you will face many challenges, but each challenge will make you strong and allow you an opportunity to grow (it depends on how you handle the challenge!).

Tips for aspiring in-house counsel

Are you planning to start your career as an in-house counsel, maybe shifting your career from litigation to in-house counsel or maybe looking for some tips that can help you become a successful in-house counsel? Entering the world of corporate law as an in-house counsel is not easy but as rightly said by Winston Churchill, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence- is the key to unlocking our potential”. If you are confident, diligent, always ready to learn, a practical thinker and adapt to the environment easily, you will excel as an in-house counsel.

Here are some tips for an in-house counsel:

Basic knowledge of finance

You must be wondering why finance. How is this related to the legal field? Well, business has a language which is numbers. Don’t worry, you don’t need an MBA or finance degree for this, just a basic knowledge about finance is enough. But the question is what is termed as basic knowledge and how can one have it? 

Knowing how to read balance sheets, profit and loss statements, cash flow statements and financial terms like non-performing assets, return on assets, debt financing, corporate guarantee, letter of credit, consortium lending, syndicate loan etc. Regarding how to learn, you can easily learn through YouTube and of course, you will gradually learn as you work.

Be curious

Debasish Mridha rightly said, “Be curious! Curiosity of the mother of all knowledge”.  Learning never ends. You should never be afraid to ask questions and seek feedback. Asking questions and seeking feedback is not a negative thing in corporate culture, rather, it is a gift.

For example, in your team meeting, your senior said that the company is planning to enter into the food industry by opening a subsidiary and the details regarding this will be shared in the next meeting. As an in-house counsel, before the next meeting date, you should research the food industry laws and regulations, how to open a subsidiary, what forms will be filed, what compliances need to be taken care of while opening a subsidiary, the potential challenges that may be faced and the penalties for non-compliance (the list will be never-ending once you start your research). Since you have done research, you might have a lot of queries in your mind, which can be asked in the next meeting when your seniors give you the details of the project.

Build your network/relationships

This tip is definitely going to help you in future if you implement it! You should not limit yourself but make networks and build good relationships with your seniors and colleagues. It is an investment, my friend.

While you are searching for an in-house counsel job, you can connect to legal professionals through LinkedIn.

And if you are working as an in-house counsel, try to become an invaluable asset to your seniors (that really works). Learn about them, take advice from them, ask others who have worked with them or for them and try to incorporate all the good points that you have noted down while doing this research.

Build relationships with your business clients. Before going for a meeting with the client, do a little research about the client’s business. Understand their legal problem, the challenges faced by them and don’t forget to build a friendly relationship with them.

Build relationships with your colleagues in your legal department. Don’t restrict yourself. Build your image amongst your colleagues as someone who is polite, helpful, and friendly. 

With everyone you build relations with; you must make it clear (through your actions or words) that you are there for them whenever they land in trouble.

Understand your role

A very basic thing yet very important tip. You must know what your role in the company is and why you have been hired. Maybe the workload of the company is more and they needed a legal professional to help them or maybe a person had left the company (due to personal reasons or unsatisfactory performance) and you have been hired to replace them. Ask your colleagues (but don’t sound desperate while doing so).

The main role of the in-house counsel is to safeguard the company against potential risks, comply with all regulatory compliances, appear before the courts/tribunals, draft applications/written statements/contracts, do negotiations and give legal advice. However, you will not be burdened by all the work, therefore it is important you understand what your role is.

Be practical and clear

Leave the practice of saying NO. There is always a way out of the problem, it’s just that you have to go into detail and analyse it. Your senior won’t be impressed if you outrightly say no to the question they are expecting a solution to. Take time, do your research and even if the answer is no (legally) come up with an alternative solution.

Use simple and clear language while drafting legal documents or communicating with others. Communicate in such a manner that the other person can understand quickly. Avoid the habit of writing long emails or giving long legal advice. Further, while drafting any legal documents (even email) avoid using jargon, words like likely, might, possible etc.

Understand the company’s culture

Learn about your company’s and the legal department’s goals and values. If you are confused, clarify regarding the same from your colleague. Understand the product of the company, find out who are the competitors, what strategies are used by the company and other relevant information.

Improve your soft skills

At all times an in-house counsel should improve their soft skills including communication, problem-solving skills, leadership, time-management, critical thinking etc. Just remember that no one is perfect and learning is endless. The in-house counsel has to interact with the clients and appear before the courts. Therefore, it is very important for them to have a good command of communication.

Continuous learning

We all must have heard, “The beauty of learning is that no one takes it away from you”. The more you get knowledge of the related laws, regulations and guidelines of the industry that the company is working in, it will be beneficial for you. By continuous learning is to enhance your knowledge by enrolling in relevant legal courses, attending conferences, webinars and seminars which are related to your legal field, stay updated about the latest legal developments even though it is not related to your specialisation (extra knowledge is never bad and you never know when it might come to use).


Working as an in-house counsel in India is a boon as well as a bane. There are various challenges that in-house counsel face but it’s a rewarding profession, you get to make a significant impact on the company and its success. The in-house counsel is a valuable asset for the company which acts as a pillar against the external forces and safeguards the company from legal risks. The role includes advising the company on legal issues, handling litigation matters, managing legal risks and complying with the law. The Indian economy is growing and so is the need for in-house counsels, making way for aspiring legal professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the difference between communication skills and negotiating skills?

Negotiation skills are a subset of communication skills. To explain in simple words, communication skills are all about the way you speak and present your words and expressions, whereas, in negotiation skills, you use those words and expressions to convince someone of your viewpoint. Both of these skills are closely connected with each other.

What are the roles and responsibilities of an in-house counsel?

In today’s time, the roles and responsibilities of the in-house counsel are not just restricted to providing legal advice but also includes:

  • Drafting and reviewing contracts;
  • Staying abreast with the latest laws relating to employment, contract, company, insurance etc.;
  • Possessing a business acumen to provide tactical insights;
  • Ensuring regulatory compliance;
  • Expertise in intellectual property including patents, copyrights and trademarks;
  • Performing contract negotiation;
  • Appearing before the courts or tribunals;
  • Resolving disputes through arbitration or mediation; and
  • Developing strategies to mitigate potential legal risks.

What qualifications are needed to work as an in-house counsel?

The main qualification that you need to work as an in-house counsel is a law degree from a recognised university. You can also go for a master’s degree in business law or any other diploma or certificate course that enhances your knowledge about the laws related to the companies. However, pursuing a master’s or diploma is not mandatory.

What type of industries hire in-house counsel?

Industries such as entertainment, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, finance, telecommunications etc. hire in-house counsels. Nevertheless, almost all types of industries require in-house counsel to safeguard them against legal attacks.

How can I get a job as an in-house counsel?

You can secure a job as an in-house counsel by:

  • Successfully completing your law degree;
  • Gaining relevant experience through internships or entry-level jobs in law firms or legal departments;
  • Building a professional network which can be done by attending seminars, conferences, legal events or connecting on LinkedIn or online forums;
  • Developing your drafting, researching, negotiating and problem-solving skills; and
  • Applying rigorously for jobs through the company’s website or LinkedIn job posts. 

What is the salary of an in-house counsel in India?

According to Ambition Box, the average salary of an in-house counsel in India is Rs 6.1 lakhs. You can get a detailed insight into the salaries of an in-house counsel in India here.

Why is being an in-house legal counsel important in a company?

In-house legal counsel is the backbone of the company. They act as a barrier between the external forces and the company against the potential legal risks and develop strategies to overcome/mitigate these risks. 

How to decide whether to work in a law firm or as an in-house counsel?

That’s a tough choice to make There are some points that you should consider before choosing the right career path:

  • What is your area of interest? For example, if you have an inclination towards mergers and acquisitions, you should work in a law firm whereas if you are interested in media law, choose to work as an in-house counsel.
  • Analyse the scope of growth. One of my friends started his first job in a boutique law firm wherein he learned a lot as there were fewer team members. It’s you who has to decide whether you want to go for a brand name firm/company or learn a multitude to work in a small firm/company.
  • Analyse the roles and responsibilities of both positions. The role of in-house counsel is much broader than working in a law firm as an associate. 

How should an in-house counsel deal with potential legal risks?

The in-house counsel should have a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) mindset to deal with the potential legal risks. Let’s take an example, go back to the time when the pandemic hit due to COVID-19, the #MeToo movement and gender identity awareness raised a plethora of legal issues. Currently, the booming artificial intelligence and cybersecurity are raising various legal issues. As our economy is continuously developing, such issues will rise and evolve every year. Therefore, it is very important that the in-house counsel has a VUCA mindset.

What are the advantages of becoming an in-house counsel?

The following are the advantages of becoming an in-house counsel:

  • No stress of billable hours;
  • Flexible work arrangements;
  • More exposure to advice and decisions;
  • Broader roles and responsibilities;
  • Complex nature of work, leading to enhanced learning.

Do companies hire recent law graduates as in-house counsel ?

Yes, the companies do hire recent law graduates who have the zeal to work as in-house counsel. For example, Hewlett Packard (HP) recruits law students to become a part of their legal department. Law graduates should keep an eye on the company’s website for such vacancies.

What are the career opportunities available for in-house counsels in India?

The in-house counsels in India have ample career opportunities across various sectors like banking, technology, food, media and entertainment, automotive, pharmaceuticals etc. The roles for which they are hired range from being a legal advisor to a general counsel, contract manager and contract specialist. However, the role depends on the number of years of experience.

How to prepare for an interview for an in-house counsel?

There are two things that you need to focus on while preparing for an interview as an in-house counsel. The first thing is to do good research about the company, the kind of business they do, its business model, the risk areas and its competitors. I think the more you know about the company and the relevant laws, the more you will be prepared for the legal questions that will be asked in your interview. Second, you should be well-versed in whatever you have written in your CV.

Which type of companies hire in-house counsel in India?

Many companies in India hire in-house counsel to handle the legal work. Some of the companies are engaged in finance, manufacturing, energy, entertainment, healthcare, technology, consulting etc.

What laws do I need to study as an in-house counsel in India?

The law that you need to study depends on which type of corporate sector you are working in. Like, if you are working in the media and entertainment industry you need to study legislation like the Copyright Act 1957, Trademark Act 1999, Information Technology Act 2000 and Cinematograph Act 1952. In general, you need to have a good command of the companies law, contract law, intellectual property law, environment law, property law and data privacy law. (This is not an exhaustive list of the laws)  

How should an in-house counsel stay updated with the emerging laws or amendments in the current laws?

The in-house counsel should attend seminars and conferences, subscribe to various legal newsletters, join legal Whatsapp groups, read a newspaper, subscribe to legal magazines and interact with colleagues and industry experts to stay updated with the emerging laws or amendments in the current laws.

How to find job opportunities as an in-house counsel?

Regularly visiting the career pages of the companies, networking with industry peers and recruiters, online job platforms like LinkedIn, and Indeed, joining WhatsApp groups sending job opportunities and references for colleagues or friends already working at the company are some of the ways in which you can find job opportunities as an in-house counsel.

What is the role of in-house counsel in startup and emerging companies in India?

The in-house counsel in startup and emerging companies in India provide legal advice, complies with all the necessary regulatory compliances, applies for trademarks, patents and copyrights (whichever is necessary), drafts all the necessary agreements, provides guidance on fundraising and laws governing such startups and companies.

Does an in-house counsel need prior experience in a law firm or corporate legal department?

It is not mandatory for an in-house counsel to have any prior experience in a law firm or corporate legal department. However, prior work experience will be advantageous for aspiring in-house counsels. Experience in various legal issues and practical knowledge of in-house counsel will be a valuable addition to the company.

How does an in-house counsel contribute to corporate governance?

Developing compliance programs and implementing them, conducting internal audits, conducting risk assessments ensuring that the company complies with the regulatory requirements and promoting an ethical culture in the company are some of the ways by which an in-house contributes to corporate governance.

Are there any specific educational qualifications required for being an in-house counsel in different sectors?

The basic requirement of an LLB degree from an accredited law college/university remains the same for every in-house counsel. However, some sectors or industries prefer the candidates to have specialised knowledge. For example, a real estate company would seek in-house counsel to have knowledge about the Transfer of Property Act 1882, Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016, Indian Stamp Act 1899 etc.

Is it mandatory for the in-house counsel to enrol themselves with the Bar Council of India?

It is not mandatory to enrol with the Bar Council of India to work as an in-house counsel. But there are some companies which hire in-counsel counsel to handle their legal disputes, especially litigation matters, in such cases, it becomes necessary to get enrolled in the Bar Council of India.

Do I need to do any specific legal course as an in-house counsel in India?

Yes, you can pursue your master’s or diploma in corporate law, intellectual property, or commercial contracts, as these courses will provide you with in-depth knowledge and skills relevant to the role of in-house counsel. Please note that it is not a mandatory requirement to pursue any course, but some companies are looking for lawyers with specialisations.


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