In-House Counsel Must Learn Executive Presence

executive presence

If you are an in-house counsel or aspiring to be one, learning to have executive presence will be key to your career. Law firm lawyers often believe that they have executive presence, but many are surprised to learn that they lack these critical skills once they start their in-house lives. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources on the subject that current and prospective in-house counsel can read and learn from:

  • Why In-House Counsel Need Executive Presence by Amii Barnard-Bahn at the ACC Docket: “Based on my experience as a Fortune Global 500 executive and now executive coach over the past 20-plus years, I can tell you that executive presence is one of the five key elements (the other four are self-awareness, external awareness, strategic thinking, and thought leadership) that accelerates career progression.”
  • Executive Presence – How To Connect With And Be Part Of The C-Suite by Barrett Avigdor and Miriam Frank of Major, Lindsey & Africa: “In order to have significant impact as a leader in your organization, you need the other members of the C-Suite to include, consult and listen to you. Your title as general counsel gets you in the room. To be truly impactful, however, you need the other C-level executives to see you not as a narrow subject matter expert to be consulted only on legal matters, but rather as a peer and adviser who also brings specialized knowledge. You need to demonstrate that elusive quality known as executive presence, or “gravitas.””
  • Executive Presence As In-House Counsel – What It Is And How To Get It by Sterling Miller via Thomson Reuters: “As an in-house lawyer, you know that moving up the chain means finding a way to project executive presence.  Sadly, there is no class in law school on the topic and you cannot order executive presence from Amazon.  The good news is that it is a set of skills that can be learned and honed over time.  Below is a road map to help develop the key skills necessary to build your executive presence.”
  • Executive Presence – A Learnable Skill by Sheryl Odentz at Progress In Work: “Lawyers who exhibit “executive presence” are more likely to make partner, to gain clients’ trust and loyalty, and to receive referrals from others. Executive presence is easy to spot, but difficult to define. A lucky few are born with it, but, in most cases, it is learned. This article discusses what executive presence is and how you can learn it.”
  • Build Your Executive Presence In-House at Sterling Miller’s Ten Things Blog: “When it comes to “executive presence,” I now have the benefit of being older with more than a few gray hairs.  As a result, a lot of people (my wife, daughters, and assorted dogs and cats excluded) tend to pay attention to what I say and even seek out my advice.  But, it wasn’t always this way.  I was a young, clueless in-house lawyer once.  I was also self-aware enough to know it.  And I knew that at some point in every in-house lawyer’s career, to move up the chain (or show your value), you need to find a way to project executive presence without the help of Father Time.”

Executive presence is a skill critical at all levels of the legal department. Indeed, your executive presence skills may be what propel you from the lower ranks to a Deputy GC job or the coveted General Counsel role.