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I appreciate the ongoing opportunity to connect with in-house counsel via this column, and I frequently offer my two cents on strategy and marketability for readers who want to sit in a General Counsel chair down the road.

But I have never sat in a GC seat, and nothing beats hearing directly from successful professionals who have been where you want to go. With that in mind, I’m starting off 2018 with tips generated from my firm’s Q&A profiles with General Counsel. A big thank you to Cate Flahardy who conducts these interviews.

Clear themes emerge, and the most unmistakable is shifting from thinking like a lawyer to thinking like a businessperson. As Jeff Carr, general counsel of chemical giant Univar, puts it: “I happen to have a law degree and I happen to be in charge of legal services. But I don’t define myself as a lawyer. I am a leader and executive.” Here is how Karen Shaff, general counsel of financial services leader Principal Financial Group, advises aspiring GC: “Businesspeople love to talk about their business. You have to have an interest in knowing the business, you have to listen and build relationships with the businesspeople.”

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