With 2019 around the corner, in-house counsel are drafting New Years’ resolutions for their legal careers.
For lawyers with dreams of landing and succeeding in the top legal spot at their company—or moving in-house from a firm—here’s a collection of career advice general counsel shared this year:
- Keep the Focus on Clients: The Golden State Warriors’ chief legal officer David Kelly said it’s important for in-house counsel to put their client’s needs front and center, above lawyers’ personal interests. “Lawyers, we aren’t the show. Clients are the show,” he said.
- Embrace Unique Skill Sets: Salesforce.com, Inc. general counsel Amy Weaver said she was told early in her career that lawyers should pound the table and yell demands—but that style didn’t work for her, and she didn’t feel comfortable adopting it. “To be effective, [lawyers] need to figure out what their own skills are and embrace those, and don’t be too quick to change to match what someone else’s definition of power is,” Weaver said.
- Learn Outside of Law School: Leading an in-house team requires more than legal knowledge, PayPal CLO Louise Pentland said. “You need to be really good with people, you need to be really good with collaboration, and you need to be really good with leadership,” she said. “And they’re not phrases you hear too often in a law school. And so if you’re really interested in getting into business, really learn about those skills and develop those skills from an early stage in your career.”
- Service Provider Mentality: OpenTable GC Connie Chen said law firm training before moving in-house “ingrains the service provider mentality, responding quickly [and] getting back to people.”
- Play the Long Game: Most GCs don’t land the top legal job overnight. Twitch GC Elizabeth “Boo” Baker said she mapped out her legal career to develop the skills she’d need in-house, starting as a corporate lawyer doing M&A work, then technology transactions. “[Think] of your career more like steps or a chess game, where you’re going to have to take different moves to get to that end game,” she said.
- Make a Good Impression: Corporate clients can offer an entry into the in-house world for firm lawyers. Airbus Silicon Valley’s general counsel Robert Keele said he landed his role after working for the company as outside counsel. “The easiest way most people I know have gone in-house, including me, is to have a client,” Keele said. “You get to know them through your work at the firm and they get to know you and trust you and presumably like you if they’re considering hiring you. That’s the easiest way to get your foot in the door.”
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