June 5 marks my one-year anniversary as general counsel at Harsco Corp. As I reflect on what has truly been one of the most exciting years of my career, I would like to share steps you can take during your first 90 days as general counsel to guide you on a path to success.
Schedule time with your CEO, board members and fellow executive team members. Establishing good working relationships with your CEO, board and fellow -executive team members is a key component of your success. Schedule an initial meeting with your CEO during your first week on the job to establish your working relationship and your key goals for the next 90 days and beyond. Elicit information regarding areas your CEO will be focusing on and that you can help drive toward success. Also, reach out to your board members (if applicable) and establish one–on-one calls or meetings. Keep your CEO apprised of these outreach efforts and any -follow-up items. Finally, schedule time with your fellow executive team members to better understand their needs and how you can build (or strengthen) a legal team that can address those needs. You are equal parts manager of the legal team, counsel to the CEO and the board, and partner to your executive team members, and you should focus on each role during your first 90 days.
Meet with your team; surround yourself with great people. Schedule a group meeting with your legal team to introduce yourself, make them aware of your initial thoughts regarding the path forward during the next 90 days and answer their questions. Whether the legal team is one within which you have been promoted or a new team at a new company, it’s important that the team members see you as immediately engaging with them and providing a vision and path forward. Also meet one-on-one with your direct reports to gain a quick understanding as to what they are working on, what issues they see, etc., and determine how you can help them succeed. Ultimately, take a hard look at your legal department structure, and have the courage to make an honest and fair assessment of your new team. Be willing to place team members in positions that will lead to their success, but also be willing to have the tough conversations with people who are not performing at the expected level. Be bold and surround yourself with great people (do not be afraid to hire people that are smarter than you).
Find yourself a good relationship law firm that you trust. If you have inherited the prior GC’s relationship firm, quickly decide whether you will continue with that firm. Ultimately, ensure that you have a law firm that values client service and at which you have a trusted lawyer or two who you ultimately feel can become part of your support system.
Arrange a “GC boot camp.” During my first year on the job, I have been fortunate enough to participate in multiple one-hour “briefings” with lawyers at one of our relationship law firms on topics that should be on every public company GC’s radar screen. The goal is not to make me or any other GC an expert on these -topics, but to ensure that key issues are front and center for me.
I encourage other GCs -reading this article to contribute their thoughts and comments about -additional steps to success for new GCs. Visit www.InsideCounsel.com to weigh in.
A. Verona Dorch is vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary at Harsco Corp.