Introduction by Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications
Sterling Miller is one of our favorite columnists. While his latest column is actually titled “10 Things: Business Skills All In-House Lawyers Should Master,” his advice is applicable to anyone who wants to be a great managing partner, a “trusted adviser” to clients (instead of simply being what I call a transactionalist), a great partner, junior associate or rainmaker – regardless of the field you’re in or where you are in your career.
Ten Things: Business Skills All In-House Lawyers Anyone Aspiring to Leadership Should Master
In my newest book, Showing the Value of the Legal Department, I include a section on the evolution of the role of in-house counsel. I walk through the “dark ages” (lawyers in the basement alone and ignored) all the way to the current phase of “leaders/strategic thinkers” (using our lawyer superpowers to become valued partners to the business). As I see it, the part of the role that has changed the most over the course of this evolution is the need for in-house lawyers to bring more to the table than just good legal skills. Those are just your ticket to get into the circus. To be successful, to be viewed as a partner to the business, and to get your seat at the big kids’ table with the filet mignon, you must also possess a set of key business skills. How do I know this? Well, I fumbled and bumbled my way through the process the hard way, i.e., I had to figure it out mostly on my own (but certainly – and thankfully – with the help of some key mentors along the way). But I did figure it out and had a seat at the table as general counsel three times where I learned that the business had its own language (numbers) and way of doing things (business school) that were foreign to me given my legal background. After thinking about it a bit, I realized that almost everyone at the table had a background in certain business skills that I did not possess. Moreover, while everyone was more than happy to explain things if you asked; if you didn’t ask, they just assumed you were playing the same game they were playing, and it was on you to keep up with the class. And, of course, like most lawyers, I was too proud to just up and announce that I had no clue about half the shit they were talking about. Fortunately, I was smart enough to know I had to level up or I was soon destined for the little kids’ table and a nice Happy Meal of chicken nuggets. So, level up I did. And over the course of eight years of writing this blog, I have mentioned a wide assortment of business skills you need to succeed in the role. But what I have not done is list all those skills in one post. This edition of “Ten Things” corrects that oversight and sets out the ten essential business skills you must master to succeed as an in-house counsel. And thanks to Marco Bijl, Head of Legal at Philips, for the idea:
For more detail about 1-5 above and for tips 6-10, click here.