In-House Counsel Survival Skills – Become the Company Hero
In-House Counsel is a role that requires flexibility. Often, your prior legal experience working 80 hours a week for a law firm is no longer applicable. Billable hours, the gold standard benchmark for a law firm, are replaced with internal projects where In-House Counsel must constantly prove their value.
Here are some survival tips for succeeding as In-House Counsel:
1. Understand your new role and priorities
It's a misconception to think you don't have to concern yourself about client expectations because your "clients" share the same space with you. You still have complex relationships to maintain, and it would be wise to show your colleagues that you are on the side of doing business, focusing on negotiating fair agreements for both parties. Position yourself as a business accelerator and not just a risk-preventer.
2. Get used to making business decisions quickly
Often you need to make the best decision you can, even with inadequate information. The impetus to move quickly is vital because business opportunities have a shelf life - any delays may mean losing relationships that impact the company's business side.
Get comfortable with ambiguity. Strive to make timely educated guesses rather than spending your time on perfection.
3. Learn to say no to protect your work-efforts
If you worked as outside counsel in the past, you eagerly took on as much billable work from a client as you could get. When you move to an in-house role, you have different standards to meet.
Are you accelerating contracts and agreements? Or are you busy doing extra work for your colleagues that is not part of your duties? Be aware when your co-workers identify their projects as "legal," even when they can do most of the proposed work themselves. Your job as In-House Counsel is to ensure you can efficiently perform the legal work before helping out your colleagues
4. Get a handle on the internal politics
Knowing who the players are, what they contribute, and how to collaborate with them is paramount. Avoid unnecessary conflicts by understanding your colleagues’ goals while doing your best to accommodate them when possible. Become part of the team and someone they want to include, not someone they go to as an after-thought.
5. Offer a sensible approach that works for the business team
You're part of a business team now, and learning to be pragmatic rather than offering theoretical legal positions is your new mandate.
Get to know how to work with your employer by grasping the subtle nuances that will support them. By understanding their unique needs, and the company's culture, you can create a spot for yourself without ruffling feathers, or worse, being seen as an obstacle to new business.
6. It's not about billable hours anymore
There is no need to think about increasing your billable hours anymore. Instead, it would be best if you delivered streamlined answers quickly. Your internal clients need a simple response - not a lengthy legal brief.
7. Commit to learning the business from day one
Prove your value by knowing the business, as well as the business professionals you work for do. Don't wait for problems to come to you – dive into the day-to-day business to find out the processes, operations, and strategies so you can provide the best value. When offering answers after the necessary legal research, condense the information to benefit people who are not lawyers but work in other business departments.
8. How much risk can your company accept?
As a lawyer, you may be in the habit of attempting to mitigate all risks. In contrast, your job as In-House Counsel is to advise of risk and understand how much risk the business can accept to keep things moving forward.
Manage risk, don't run from it. Law firms are about reducing risks, but companies are about maximizing profit. Figure out a way to say "Yes," not to say "No." (unless it’s illegal). When "No" is the right answer, present alternatives that accomplish the business goal.
9. You are not alone on an island. Be the hero for all departments
Legal should help shape discussions and plans for all departments - accounting, operations, marketing, and more. Take an active interest in planning meetings to help each department thrive.
10. Congratulations, In-House Counsel. You now have the same amount of work and fewer resources
As In-House Counsel, you quickly realize you still have the same amount of work, but the company may not have invested in the automation and resources needed to manage your projects adequately.
What to do? Earn trust by expediting agreements. Don't be a perfectionist. Let your colleagues know you are on their side. As you deliver more value, you can prove to management that In-House Counsel is worth investing in state-of-the-art automation so you can contribute more to the company.
In-House Counsel doesn't have the luxury of providing advice and walking away as outside lawyers do. As an integral part of the business, In-House Counsel will be around to see results and own their decisions, whether good or bad.
In conclusion, In-House lawyers who connect with the team, demonstrate knowledge of the business, and jump into the company's culture and priorities can become valuable contributors and flourish.
About the author:
Legal Suite is the worldwide leader in digital transformation for lawyers. We have delivered our state-of-the-art software for lawyers, law firms, and in-house general counsel to 65,000 users for over two decades. www.legal-suite.com
In-House Counsel Survival Skills – Become the Company Hero
Published on : 20/07/2021 20 July Jul 07 2021BlogIn-House Counsel is a role that requires flexibility. Often, your prior legal...
The Legal Sector Needs to Prepare for or Become a Victim of Disruption.
Published on : 09/07/2021 09 July Jul 07 2021BlogDisruption is happening everywhere.The closing of brick-and-mortar retail sto...
Mistakes Happen.(Lawyers are Only Human After All). Automation is your best defense.
Published on : 18/06/2021 18 June Jun 06 2021BlogHave you ever noticed that some colleagues in your legal organization seem li...
Tackle Legal Spend as Your Next Priority
Published on : 12/05/2021 12 May May 05 2021BlogHave you ever noticed that focusing on a single operational issue may uncover...
Corporate Legal Entity Management: How Tech Solutions Can Untangle Regulations
Published on : 08/04/2021 08 April Apr 04 2021Blog"The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don't rea...
Add SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to Law Practices to Go Beyond Word-of-Mouth Referrals
Published on : 08/04/2021 08 April Apr 04 2021BlogLawyers and Law Firms have long relied on word-of-mouth referrals to build th...
7 KPIs that Challenge Legal Departments
Published on : 22/02/2021 22 February Feb 02 2021BlogKPIs or “Key Performance Indicators” have become essential in many areas, inc...
The COVID-19 Pandemic Teaches the Legal Sector a New Way of Doing Business
Published on : 15/02/2021 15 February Feb 02 2021BlogThe COVID-19 pandemic continues to have an extraordinary impact on day-to-day...
Rethink Your Tired Processes to Improve Everything for Your Legal Operations
Published on : 15/01/2021 15 January Jan 01 2021Blog"Change can be frightening, and the temptation is often to resist it. But cha...