On September 30, we at Loio hosted a webinar for in-house lawyers about making their professional lives more fulfilling and learning how to bring more value to their company.
We were honored to have these wonderful experts as speakers at our webinar:
- Lisa Lang, General Counsel at Kentucky State University, a columnist at Above the Law, a contributor to Contract Nerds, the anthology #Networked, and Loio’s blog.
- Brittany Leonard, Chief Corporate Counsel at Civix, an expert strategic business advisor, and a contributor to Loio’s blog.
If you weren’t able to attend the webinar, don’t get discouraged: in this article, you will find all the key takeaways!
What is the right mindset for in-house attorneys?
When you become an in-house lawyer, it is really important to think about being a business partner, too. As in-house counsel, you need to know and understand the business you are working for. You should also think about how you can help the executive and management teams to achieve their objectives in a way that is legally defensible and implies the level of risk they are most comfortable with.
Learning everything about the business, products, customers, and services, as well as the finances of the company, is key for in-house counsel. And if you’re not sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask. If you are new to the company, don’t miss a chance to attend customer or internal department meetings to get acclimated to the whole business model.
If you could go back in time, what three pieces of advice would you give to yourself at the beginning of your career in law?
Both speakers have shared great insights drawing on their life stories.
Check out three things that Lisa Lang would say to herself at the beginning of her legal career:
- Know yourself well enough to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are.
- Open yourself up to opportunities.
- Talk to other people and see what they are doing, but don’t treat the common way to success as the only way to achieve it.
Our second speaker, Brittany Leonard, has also got a couple of great tips to share:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know something.
- Get the most out of networking, attend various events, use LinkedIn and reach out to your peers when you need help.
What should you have started doing earlier as in-house counsel?
The common mistake of in-house lawyers is the conviction that you have to stay in your department and focus only on your legal responsibilities. So, the first thing our speakers outlined is that getting out to different departments and being ahead of the situation is very important from the very beginning of your career. Moreover, it is vital to not only check out with different parts of the business but to build relationships with the teams within the organization, so that you would be the person they come to when there’s a problem.
Are there certain things that you should never do as in-house counsel?
As both of our speakers agreed, the most important thing you should never do as in-house counsel is overwork. It is very easy to get burnt out because there is always some work to be done in the legal department, and if the timelines are not adequately set, you can end up running an everlasting marathon of chasing deadlines, not having time for yourself.
In order to avoid this, it is important to talk with your internal and external partners about what their expectations and timelines are. Remember, that everything can’t be an emergency and that you have to be able to leave and turn everything off at the end of the day.
What are the current trends that in-house attorneys should know about?
The main trend that was enhanced by the pandemic is the emphasis on legal technology and legal operations. The demand for bigger efficiency is definitely a burning topic that in-house attorneys need to be aware of. And it is also important to know how to measure your value properly because you are considered a cost center as an in-house lawyer. You are expected to grow with your company, and be what your company needs you to be. That’s why it is vital to show that you can work efficiently. Commenting on this matter, Lisa Lang said the following:
“It is really important to have conversations with the business owners and your management team and find out what is important to them so that you can improve efficiencies through things like legal technology.”
It is also very important for in-house counsel to keep up with a changing regulatory environment. Especially in light of the pandemic, when the regulations and laws are constantly changing in terms of masking, quarantining, and vaccinations, it is vital for legal departments to stay on top of all new changes.
How can in-house counsel succeed on LinkedIn?
As both speakers confessed, they were afraid to post at the beginning of their LinkedIn journey. However, after getting comfortable with commenting on other people’s posts, they gained some confidence and started to share their own stories on LinkedIn. So, it is okay to move on gradually, just reading and reacting to other posts first, then writing comments, and starting to express your own thoughts when you feel comfortable with this.
The stage of just monitoring the home page and reading what other people post is very important for your future success as a thought leader because in this way you understand what people are interested in and what are the burning issues for them. Afterward, you can use this knowledge in your own blog to grow your audience faster.
Do you think in-house counsel should be tech-savvy and why? How legaltech can make in-house counsel’s routine more fulfilling?
First of all, it is important to know the basics of any tool you are using in your work, starting from Zoom, MS Teams, and other meeting platforms, as well as social media such as LinkedIn or YouTube. You don’t have to know every detail, but knowing the basics is going to get you really far.
It is also crucial to make sure that you are getting the most out of the current tech tools you are using. Sometimes even the most basic tools can significantly maximize our efficiencies and organize our work. There is a lot of work in the legal profession that can be supported by technology, and the legaltech tool doesn’t have to be large-scale from the very beginning. Sometimes reconsidering the platforms that you have right now and make sure you’re using them to their full potential is enough to boost efficiency. And sometimes even small tech instruments such as tools for contract review can save you a lot of time and nerves.
What tips for team management would you share?
First of all, to manage the team successfully, you as a leader need to understand that everybody on the team has value and a role to play. When you’re building teams, or when you’re expanding your teams, it is important to figure out where your gaps are. So, the perfect recipe is to maximize the skills of your team members to do what they’re good at and look for new team members who are good at other scopes of work.
It is also great to provide a flexible work environment for your team members. So, it doesn’t matter whether your team members work remotely or in the office and whether they are working at night or in the early morning as long as they are aware of their objectives and successfully accomplish them.
Brittany Leonard also emphasized the importance of delegating tasks as part of team management:
“Know the people on your team that you can trust and ask them for help when you need it. Know that you can’t do everything and as much as you want to, because if you do you’re going to be working 24/7 and end up in burnout.”
What mental health tips for in-house lawyers would you share?
The first piece of advice our speakers shared at the webinar was to communicate your expectations for your colleagues, employees, or clients. This means, that if you feel uncomfortable receiving emails at 3 AM, you need to say this, as well as the fact that you are not going to work long hours. If you have a lot of work on your plate, make sure that everyone on your team knows this, and will not come with some other tasks for you to get done immediately.
As our great speaker Lisa noted, it is really important to lead by example when you are managing the legal team. So, it is vital to give people space, and, most importantly, show them the right example of the work-life balance. Another point is that you need to realize that your to-do list will rarely remain empty. There will always be some work to be done — you just have to admit it, and learn to walk away from that work when your working day ends.
Do you agree with the statement that in-house counsel should be a business advisor?
Our speakers agreed that it is more correct to say that in-house counsel is one of many business advisors. Everyone on the executive management team can be called a business advisor, but everyone on that team looks at the problem from a different lens. In-house counsel is the person who looks at the business through a legal lens, which means that they are a business advisor, but in a very specific capacity.
Nevertheless, it is right to say that in-house counsel is more of a business advisor than a lawyer in a law firm. Legal departments are often about marrying business and legal. That’s why being in-house counsel implies some involvement in the business processes by default.
That’s it! For more insights, check out the webinar recording below:
See you at Loio’s next webinar on October 7! At this webinar, you’re going to hear three real-life stories of legaltech adoption in small law firms.
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