Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Top Skills for In-House Counsel in 2022

If you’re looking to land a job as an in-house lawyer, you might improve your chances by mastering a new language or taking up a new hobby 

Being able to step outside your comfort zone and learn something new will serve you well in this age of corporate anxiety and uncertainty 

Another tip: brush up on your communication skills.

“In-house counsel may confer with several audiences on any given day, ranging from C-suite managers and corporate boards to entry-level employees,” according to general counsel and entrepreneur Olga V. Mack in this blogpost for Above the Law. “There is a perpetual slew of fresh faces in the corporate legal department, including legal operations managers, project managers, and technical specialists. Lawyers must learn how to communicate their messages to these diverse groups while utilizing proper, understandable language. They must also decide how much information to share — and with whom and when and how to provide it. 

Read “5 Important Skills for the In-house Counsel” in Above the Law here. 

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Essential Skills for General Counsel

Back in pre-COVID days, an in-house lawyer was primarily expected to know the law as it applies to the corporation. Today, however, the list of job requirements has expanded.

“What used to suffice in private practices is no longer sufficient in-house, as rapid changes, increasing business needs, remote workforces, worldwide regulatory concerns, and the pandemic all combine to bring about new and distinct issues,” writes Mack. “In these turbulent times, in-house counseling requires a new set of abilities that will allow lawyers to function as trusted consultants for their clients.”

Below are four traits of an effective general counsel, according to Mack (quotes are from her Above the Law article).

  1. The most effective leaders recognize that there’s still more to learn. They embrace an attitude rooted in growth, constantly acquiring new substantive skills while remaining aware of how they present themselves and how their actions affect others. Leaders who see setbacks as learning opportunities and criticisms as gifts can inspire and encourage whole companies.”
  2. “Many in-house attorneys are hesitant to venture outside the box or suggest fresh ideas because they’ve been taught to follow tradition. As a result, young attorneys in corporate legal departments may be too afraid to propose new solutions to old problems. In-house counsel must learn how to think in different ways. Thinking creatively about the law is where legal innovation begins.”
  3. Learning agility. “Today, lawyers are not just expected to provide advice to safeguard the firm but also to develop new methods to produce value for the company. As the business changes, attorneys must adopt new skill sets.”
  4. Influencing skills. “This may be referred to as political skills, emotional intelligence, or strong bargaining skills. People must trust you if you want to influence them, and they must believe two things to trust you: (1) that you care for them and (2) that you are receptive to their influence. Good listening skills, compassion, and curiosity are essential for in-house counsel to develop organizational influence.”

Source: 5 Important Skills For The In-House Counsel Of The Future - Above the Law


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About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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