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4 Things New In-House Attorneys Should Do

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 25, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In-house lawyers are special within the legal community in that they are beholden only to a single client and are not burdened by the daily concerns of making the bills and paying employees. If you landed an in-house job, you are the employee.

But you're also likely the employee who is going to be handling a mountain of crap -- more so than any other employee in the company. The rumor that in-house life is cushy may be true for some lucky IH, but it will most likely not be in your cards for many years to come. How best to handle your new position? Here are some basic tips that anyone can follow.

1. Know the Company

In order to get a better understanding of how best to serve your company, it's simply prudent to know how the company is set up, who the directors are, and to whom you'll be reporting. The most direct way of doing this is to first request an organizational structure chart and to also request a copy of the company's business plan and books. Always remember, though: although you may report to a single person, ultimately it's the company who is your client.

2. Know the Sector

Although it may be useful to know the market in which your company competes from a money point of view, the company is relying on your expertise to guide it through legal troubles. This means researching the relevant laws. For many companies, this means becoming fluent in the applicable compliance laws, employment issues, and the latest in just passed federal and state laws. If that sounds like a lot, it is.

3. Review the Company's Best Practices and Due Diligence Files

Every company should have a file on hand for when everything hits the fan. This is the "getting out of dodge" scenario and this is where you come in. But in order to improve on that, you'll need to first review the company's due diligence folder which is the essential handbook for any major acquisition, sale, or otherwise big move not encountered on a daily basis. If there is no binder because the company is a start-up, its up to you to begin one. Don't be afraid to annoy the top brass a little -- it's your job to be a pain. You're a lawyer and that's your job.

4. Review Meetings Minutes and Public Statements

Unfortunately, what a company's agents say can sometimes bite the company in the behind weeks, months, even years later. Research statements that the company has made in the last several years and take note of anything that you determine could be potential trouble for the company from the viewpoint of PR or even an admission. Advise your company's employees to be very careful about what they say. It is your job to get them to think like lawyers and to spread the policy that loose lips sink ships.

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