The Fully Human Lawyer: 7 Things Successful In-House Lawyers Do

Lauren Krasnow, leadership coach, advises on how attorneys can succeed in in-house legal departments. Krasnow writes that most in-house positions draw on the following qualities:

-Being business-savvy. In-house lawyers need business acumen and common sense to give pragmatic, business-friendly (or at least “business-reasonable”) advice. 

-Being curious about the business. A priority for in-house lawyers must be to learn the details of the business. 

-Understanding your value to the enterprise. In a law firm, subject matter expertise (SME) is prized above many other considerations since that is a key reason most institutional clients retain external counsel. 

-What is valued, universally, in-house is a lawyer’s ability to listen, to communicate complex information to diverse internal and sometimes external constituencies, to make recommendations, to forge relationships, and to inspire trust. 

-Being decisive AND comfortable with ambiguity. The ability to make thoughtful and intelligent real time recommendations without waffling is an essential quality for most in-house lawyers.

-Staying politically astute. While office politics occur in every workplace, firm lawyers are sometimes surprised by the magnitude of the change when they first move in-house. 

-Having “executive presence” and a strong backbone. Executive presence can be defined as “when you speak, people listen and take your ideas seriously.” 

-Having, or getting, management skills. Many in-house lawyers manage others, either directly or indirectly; this includes outside counsel, plus individuals within the organization (e.g., other lawyers, assistants, staff). Since management skills are required, in-house lawyers need the drive and the humility to learn them.

Are you interested in more advice on becoming a successful in-house lawyer? Read more in this article.

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