If you followed the typical road to in-house counseldom, you probably put in some time at BigLaw. Though many of the issues you may be dealing with are in the same practice area, you are now on the other side of the phone -- you are the client.
That's not the only difference. You also need to change your mind set a bit; you should not only be approaching problems with you lawyer hat on, but also your business hat. If you haven't figured this out yet, sometimes the business and legal teams' goals are not aligned. Seeing things from the business perspective will not only make you a more effective attorney, it will make you GC material.
Here are five ways to bridge the gap between the business and law sides of your brain ...
It's easy to get so bogged down in meetings that you decide to skip some. Don't. Sometimes you may be the only lawyer in the room so your perspective is needed. Lawyers can also be know-it-alls sometimes. Give it a rest, and actually listen to your colleagues. You're the issue spotter in the room -- figure out what they are really asking for.
2. Come Up With Business Solutions
You're not at BigLaw anymore, a strictly legal answer won't do. Your client is a company whose primary business interest is to generate revenue. Keep this in mind when coming up with solutions to problems.
3. Always Keep Legal Issues in Mind
This is where you need to be able to juggle. While you want to come up with business solutions to legal problems, your first duty of course is to make sure that any business solution is legally viable. Don't get carried away with business dealings and forget that all decisions need to pass legal muster.
4. Don't Get In the Way
In-house attorneys are normally seen by their business compatriots as gate keepers who get in the way of closing deals. But, it doesn't have to be that way. The in-house attorney can be the person who facilitates things for their clients and gets them done. Don't procrastinate, and remember who your client is. Also, this can be about communication. How do you want to be seen? Which reminds us ...
One of the ways to "not get in the way" is by establishing regular communication with your clients. Yes, sometimes things on the legal side take a little longer to resolve -- let them know. In business, silence is seen as inaction. Keeping everyone in the loop on what's going on will make your business team trust you more.
Thinking more like a business person may take some getting used to, but you'll find that the sooner you do it, the easier your work will become. Rather than a stodgy attorney, you'll be seen as a valuable team player that understands her client's needs.
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