So you made it to the promised land: The General Counsel's office. Congratulations.
It's normal to be nervous about your first in-house gig, especially if you're diving into a new practice area. Fear not. Here are five tips for new in-house attorneys that can help you navigate the learning curve in your new job:
- Befriend the paralegal. If you're new to the subject matter at your in-house gig, make nice with your paralegal. Paralegals are a great resource, and they can make your life much easier or far more difficult.
- Join a trade association. Trade associations know the nuts and bolts of an industry, and they track all the latest legal developments in their fields. Want to keep up with the legal and political happenings in your new industry? Join the local and national chapters of the trade association. (For example, if you work for a bank, you should join the American Bankers Association and the corresponding state chapter, like the New York Bankers Association.)
- Find a mentor. No one expects you to be an expert on your first day, but you should constantly work to develop your expertise. Find a mentor to guide you through that process. It could be an attorney within your company's legal department, someone at a different company, or even your predecessor. A mentor can recommend trade associations, helpful CLE classes, and suggest books and articles.
- Take more CLEs. Your company will pay for your CLEs; use this to your advantage. Frontload your CLE requirements for the year with courses that are relevant to your new position.
- Capitalize on your firm experience. Law firm experience teaches you how to manage outside litigation, and it helps you understand how your company's law firm is billing you. Use that information to keep legal costs down. If you think outside counsel is overbilling, push back.
The early months at an in-house job can be intense while you bridge the knowledge gap. Become a sponge. Read everything you can find about your new industry in your spare time. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
A self-directed crash course about your new field can be grueling, but it will help you build confidence and become a better attorney.
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