5 Tips on How to Succeed In-House

This article was written by Caroline Spiezio for Corporate Counsel.The original article was found via: https://bit.ly/2HOiRYI. 


In the current business and legal climate, the work of in-house counsel doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. And in times like these, sound advice from those who have been around the block is welcome.

On Monday afternoon, a room full of current and aspiring corporate counsel got just that at the 15th Annual Stanford E-Commerce Best Practices Conference.

During an hourlong panel session, in-house counsel from Microsoft Corp, Sophos Ltd. and other companies discussed navigating the boardroom, company culture and developing trust. Here are some of the session’s big takeaways:

  1. Understand the company’s product or service. In-house leaders need to know what their company does, how it does it and what goes into making it happen. Panelists noted that having a deep understanding of the company from all perspectives helps boost credibility with colleagues outside legal, including engineers and product managers. “Once you’ve taken the time to understand how the pieces fit together it can be really powerful because it will buy you credibility with people who might not listen to you,” said Anthony Falzone, deputy general counsel at Pinterest.
  2. Get out there and travel. Visiting offices in other states or countries can also help boost a GC or CLO’s credibility, said Sophos GC Eleanor Lacey. In her first year as the company’s legal leader, she traveled to Hungary and other countries where Sophos does business. Those offices had never had the GC visit before, she said, and they were impressed that she came. “It was amazing to me how at a senior level [visiting] just seemed to buy me a lot of credibility,” she said.
  3. Respect the experience of others. Lacey also recommended that in-house counsel keep a close eye on those who have been at the company longer, in order to learn, especially when it comes to figuring out what the company’s leadership and its board members want. Lacey said she realized leaders at a company she used to work at enjoyed getting their information through data reports by paying attention to how company veterans presented to them. “It took a long time but I learned to present in a way that that company [valued],” she said.
  4. Fix what’s not working. For in-house lawyers struggling to figure out how to best help their legal team and client, Max Ochoa, the CFO and GC of ‎Alation Inc., said it can be best to just ask what needs improvement. “I start off every meeting with ‘What’s broken?’ Which is a different question than, ‘How are things going?’ Because people will say, ‘fine, fine.’ But when I ask you what’s broken, you know what’s broken,” he said.
  5. Let them know what you’re worth. Lacey shared the story of an in-house leader who was almost let go during a rough financial patch so that the company could keep its breakfast bagels—because no one in the decision room knew what the lawyer did. “If no one knows what you’re doing it’s not valuable [to them],” she said.


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