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In-House Lawyers: Come Out of Your Shell to Get Ahead

By William Vogeler, Esq. on August 20, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Snails live with their houses on their backs, and will withdraw into them in a moment's notice.

Of course, they are slower than turtles. And their shells are really delicate -- not much protection against anything bigger than a shoe.

Some in-house attorneys are like snails, and don't get very far because they never stick their necks out. For them, it may be time for evolution.

Introverted Lawyers

We're talking about talented attorneys who need to come out of their shells. Until they do, they are going to be overlooked.

That's according to the ABA Journal and Heidi Brown, a professor or law and director of legal writing at Brooklyn Law School. She is also the author of "The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy."

She offers steps for "introverted, shy and socially anxious individuals" to amplify their voices without compromising their strengths. That includes:

  • Mental reflection to identify negative thoughts
  • Mental action to eject those unhelpful messages
  • Physical action to manage and enhance your voice

It's not bad to be an introverted lawyer. While some may have a hard time making court appearances, they may also have strengths that make them better at other tasks.

"Some supervising attorneys might bristle at seeing closed doors down a law firm corridor, but some introverts might just need those few precious hours of seclusion to produce an exceptional piece of legal writing," Brown says.

Get Out of the Office

On the other hand, isolation is one of the perils of being corporate counsel. The Association of Corporate Counsel notes that a third of in-house departments are staffed by solo practitioners.

"Perhaps the greatest disadvantage of being the sole attorney for a corporation is that such an arrangement has the potential to foster a sense of isolation from other attorneys," the association said.

It's a good idea to join support organizations and to network with peers. It's also good practice to go outside once in a while.

Even if in-house counsel don't practice in the courtroom, they should see what's going on there. It's not that scary and a lot bigger than an office.

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