To succeed in-house, one key is becoming a practical in-house lawyer. In-house clients are often right across the hall and their in-house legal counterparts are with them on the front lines of ensuring their organizations succeed. This is a far cry from law firm life where it is not unusual for a team of lawyers to ponder over an issue, write a 50 page memorandum over many weeks, and pride themselves in concluding the question at hand with an unequivocal maybe. Organizations need answers, solutions and a path forward – and they need them yesterday! So take these tips from one of the leading in-house lights, Sterling Miller, and work them into your career with a focus on becoming a practical in-house lawyer. These tips will reap dividends and increase your value to your organization tremendously. And don’t forget to build your executive presence as well!
“Lawyers, including in-house lawyers, have a well-deserved reputation for over-complicating things. Don’t worry, this isn’t a sermon. I am standing in the dock next to you, guilty as hell!…Why is it that lawyers make things so hard on themselves and their clients? I think it comes down to this: lawyers hate to be wrong. No, they fear being wrong, coupled with a belief that if you throw enough time, money, and words at a legal problem you can get to the answer or solve the problem. This explains why lawyers write in a way that no mere mortal understands….Or why our litigation process (in the US) is now largely an exercise in trying to get documents from the other side and prevent the other side from getting your documents…If you spend any time thinking about it, you begin to see why business leaders appreciate practical lawyers – lawyers who can get things done quickly and who can communicate in ways the business can understand…my experience is that in-house lawyers who are practical in their approach and advice tend to thrive at companies and become sought-after partners to the business. Those who are not, tend to be treated like lepers – feared and shunned.”