Olivia Parker, interim Head of engagement for in-house lawyers, gives us her key takeaways from April's in-house best practice course.
As someone new to the in-house community, attending the in-house best practice course was the best induction I could have had. We all know when it comes to moving to a new organisation, a new team or even taking on new responsibilities, a handover can only go so far and it’s really all about learning from experience.
The in-house best practice course is all about learning from someone else’s experience, someone who’s established in their role and in a great position to share their advice, learnings and mistakes.
So, what were some of the key messages to take away from this event?
1. "Play with your head up"
If you concentrate purely on the technical piece in-house, you will flatline. Step away from your desk and look around. Build up your network of contacts and don’t be afraid to identify some strategic individuals who can help support your career. Ask yourself: who’s in your personal boardroom?
2. Remember, not everyone in your organisation is a lawyer
You can’t force your organisation to take your advice, but you want to make sure you’re as influential and respected as you can be. Think about how you can make everyone understand what you’re trying to say and be a bit more relaxed about diluting down the legalese. Challenge negative stereotypes about solicitors and make yourself more relatable.
3. Your everyday reputation is essential
We all know reputation can take years to build and minutes to destroy. Analyse your personal, professional and your team’s reputation. Line up to it and defend it, or change your behaviours. Personal reputation is so much more important in-house as your clients are working right next to you. At the end of the day, people will deal with you if they trust you.
4. If complaints come, deal with them.
The number of complaints made against in-house solicitors is low, but, when they are made, conflict of interest is the most common theme. Don’t ignore a complaint. Reach out for help and support - you can speak to the Legal Defence Union, your local council member, or the professional practice team.
5. Use our Professional Practice team for support
Our team is on hand to help you as an in-house solicitor. If you’re ever in doubt about whether you have an issue of professional practice or professional ethics, pick up the phone. We give objective advice - in some cases we can give a clear recommended course of action, in others we will lay out several possible courses of action you could take.
6. Beware of being a 'blocker'
The worst thing for an in-house lawyer is to be seen as is a ‘blocker’ – someone who has a reputation for saying no to any request. Lawyers are naturally risk-averse, but how might you be able to help? If you don’t look for positive solutions, people might stop coming to you for help.
7. Lawyers can make great leaders
Legal professionals can be a key part of the management team as you can apply the law and your legal knowledge to achieve real results in business. As legal counsel, you’re in a unique position to find out what’s going on everywhere in a business and be able to add value as management. So get involved with everything you possibly can. Put aside your own ego and focus on what the business needs; that’s what makes a great leader.
Our best practice course runs twice a year and is next scheduled for October 2018. Anyone can come along, but it may be especially helpful for those who have recently started in-house and seek to shape their in-house role within a small or large team, as well as for those in sole legal counsel roles.