In-house counsel attorneys have a unique vantage point. They are part of a broader business but are specifically slated to act as the company's legal eyes and ears. And, for some attorneys, a corporate counsel seat is also much sought-after for its lifestyle benefits including regular workdays sans the billable hours.
So whether you seek a position within a corporate legal department, are new to the in-house counsel scene, or are just looking to master the domain, here are some characteristics that make for stellar in-house attorneys.
1. Are effective communicators. Successful in-house attorneys can effectively understand and verbalize the needs of the company, role of in-house staff, and services offered by outside counsel. Whether talking to the Sales team, Human Resources, or IT, in-house counsel has to understand their audience but also proficiently explain legalities of topics such as compliance, liability, and confidentiality.
2. Can do cost-benefit analysis. A key question posed to corporate counsel is whether to handle a matter in-house or to delegate it to outside counsel. A stellar in-house attorney will know when to save the company money by addressing a matter internally but will also not hesitate to send a matter to qualified outside attorneys for timely consideration.
3. Have mastered the art of meetings. Many in-house attorneys spend hours of their day in meetings, on conference calls, and video conferences. The top-notch in-house attorney will know how make meetings productive, worthwhile, and reasonably brief.
4. Manage time well. Compared to their BigLaw counterparts, in-house attorneys do not have to fuss with billable hours but they also do not have definitive court deadlines to labor under. In the absence of such time restrictions, in-house attorneys have to be able to manage their time wisely and balance competing interests.
5. Multitask with ease. Where a solo practice attorney, agency lawyer, or non-profit attorney may dedicate themselves to handful of cases, the in-house attorney has to be able to oversee and manage the handling of many matters on various topics from different arms of the business. The upper crust in house attorney will be able to shift gears between matters with minimum lag.