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Moonlighting: Welcome to the In-House Wonderland

Ed. note: Welcome to the inaugural installment of Moonlighting, a column for in-house lawyers by our newest writer, Susan Moon. Susan’s column will appear on Fridays.

Come one, come all, to this paradise we call The In-house Wonderland. This is a magical place where all of your time-billing nightmares turn into hazy clouds of doing whatever the heck you want, when you want, and not keeping track of any of it. Where you hire outside firms to do all of the legwork while you sip your latté and email them to let them know that you actually need it a week earlier than you thought (so yeah, that would be in about two hours, kthxbai)! A Xanadu in which you’re never in fear of getting pushed up and out just because you can’t find ways to bring in millions (wait, is it billions now?) for the firm.

Yes, it is a dream…. Unfortunately, just a dream.

I’ve been in-house for the past several years at a travel and hospitality company. My work is varied and transactional, which means the general public has absolutely no idea what it is I do, since the only lawyers that they know exist are litigators from Law & Order, The Practice, Boston Legal… need I go on? Let’s face it, even most law students have no idea what corporate lawyers do either, since law schools seem to have signed a pact to pretend that transactional law doesn’t really exist. Sigh….

Susan Moon

Despite the little attention from prime time television and the institutions that provide us with so-called “legal training,” I really enjoy my highly unrecognized work. It involves things like advising people that just maybe they could have checked with the lawyers a little earlier about the new product they want to launch tomorrow that just maybe could be in violation of a few federal and state laws here and there. Or negotiating every kind of contract you can think of (I can say this because you law students can’t think of that many types of contracts. Name just two — yeah, didn’t think so). And of course, there are marketing reviews — think ads and videos for beaches, ski resorts, mountain retreats — I mean who wouldn’t love this job? I even get to play with smartphone apps. No joke. (I’m actually not sure my boss realizes that I’m getting paid for that last one, so shhhh….)

Before my current job, I worked at a few large law firms, also doing corporate transactional work. Lots of fun. No really, you tell me how earning a salary you don’t deserve and dining fancy every time the summer associates show up is not a good time.

So yes, let’s agree that biglaw was fun, but the in-house practice is a new kind of Xanadu.

One where you really “own” your deals, which can be scary, but really awesome at the same time, and where you develop as a professional in many more ways than at a law firm.

Through Moonlighting, we’re going to play a game together where I’ll share some stories about the in-house practice and it’s up to you to guess which are true and which are totally made up! Ready? Well ok, no, I wasn’t able to convince the ATL editors to let me do that so, instead, we’ll be boring and cover real experiences that I’ve had and that other in-house lawyers have had.

I may also diverge once in a while and discuss topics that have nothing to do with in-house practice. What – I get distracted easily. Don’t judge.

Feel free to email me with ideas for and feedback on this column. And if you know of a place that serves up a good latté, please share!

Susan Moon is an in-house attorney at a travel and hospitality company. Her opinions are her own and not those of her company. Also, the experiences Susan shares may include others’ experiences (many in-house friends insist on offering ideas for the blog). You can reach her at and follow her on Twitter at @SusanMoon.

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