Tips for Transitioning to In-house Counsel

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Tips for Transitioning to In-house Counsel
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Are you thinking of moving from law firm to a role in-house? Making such a move is more complex than one may think and to shed some light, we have shared some important advice from two practitioners who have made the move.

To ensure that you get the most from your new role take a look what SSQ Legal Search have to say on the subject.

Moving to In-House Counsel Tips:

Learn Everything You Can About Your Potential Employer

You become more effective as an in-house lawyer when you have an understanding of the company’s business and culture. Andrew L. Strong says that sometimes you need to go to other departments to truly know how things are done. It is important that you know how the business operates and how it makes money.

Andrew L. Strong, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman recommends asking the company leaders two vital questions in order to gain better insight about the organization:

  1. What excites you when you come to work?
  2. What keeps you up at night?

The first question is easier to answer than the second, obviously. Before you accept an in-house counsel position, it is important to know what excites the company leaders.

Choose Your Battles

In-house counsel is known to be a storehouse for objections, denials and roadblocks. Yes, raising legitimate legal concerns is your job, but you should strive to become an excellent steward while finding ways to work with the rest of the team in a constructive manner. You do not want to be the person who always gives reasons as to why something cannot be done. Strive to find a way of doing it in a legally compliant manner while reducing the risk. Do not be a roadblock, become a progress facilitator.

Become an Asset

According to Jim Sandman, the president of Legal Services Corporation and former president of the District of Columbia Bar Association, it is imperative that you always market yourself as a trusted advisor and asset. Your role as in-house counsel is to create robust relationships with your clients that will last. You want them to see you as a problem solver and thought partner. This makes them find value in your advice.

Be Flexible

When Andrew L. Strong transitioned into in-house counsel, the best advice he got was to keep his calendar flexible. As an attorney, it is impossible to anticipate half of what you will do the following day. There will always be unexpected things and it is imperative that you do not get frustrated when your schedule is changed as a result of your employer needing you for something that needs to be handled as soon as possible.

Be Opportunistic

Just because you have transitioned into in-house counsel does not mean it’s the end of interesting legal challenges. However, you may want to be ready to raise your hand when they are presented. As in-house counsel, you have access to the array of legal issues that your employer encounters and this gives you an opportunity to choose the most intriguing and challenging ones.

Consider Learning Opportunities

Back in 2009, Andrew L. Strong left the law firm to work at Texas A&M as general counsel and returned to Pillsbury in 2014. During this period, he gained a lot of experience in the biotech niche. He says that he was always curious about what it would feel like to go out and do something different. As a lawyer, it is always healthy to explore various industries and gain invaluable knowledge and experience during the process.

Prepare to Engage Beyond the Law

In-house counsels are usually considered as part of the senior management team and as such, they are expected to participate in issues that impact the whole company. According to Sandman, this gave him a broader and more interesting position than lawyers who work at firms usually have.

As you can see, there are many differences between taking on an in-house counsel role and working at a law firm. It is important that you carefully consider these differences (some like to refer to them as opportunities), along with salary offerings, workplace flexibility as well as the culture before you make the move. It is ideally worth considering the industry you have always wanted to work in and whether you’re ready to take a broader role.

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