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Top 10 Tips for the New In House Counsel

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on August 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Congrats on that great new job as in house counsel! You landed a plum gig in the legal space. Now you need some tips on how to stand out in the office.

Being a good employee is about more than showing up on time and finishing your work by the deadline. Sure that will keep you from getting fired but it won't help you climb the ranks. Your goal is to be lead GC isn't it? We thought so.

You've come to the right place for some tips and tricks of in house success.

  1. Understand the business. The company is your client after all, so get to know it like you would any other.

  2. Always be a pleasure to work with. This is especially good advice for corporate counsel since the legal department is often stereotyped as difficult and uncompromising.

  3. Get to know the key players. They're the people you'll go to for approval and to explain strategy. Figure out who they are and what they do for the company.

  4. Manage risk, don't avoid it. Law firms are about minimizing risks but companies are about maximizing profit. Don't shoot down ideas that could be problematic. Just explain how to go about it while remaining inside the law.

  5. Analyze, don't summarize. No one wants to hear you give a 10 minute lecture on the ins and outs of corporate mergers. Just tell them how it applies to this particular issue.

  6. Prove your value. Companies often rely on data and metrics to measure productivity and profit. Collect and report these performance indicators as proof of your value.

  7. Leave 'hourly billing' behind. Your bottom line no longer depends on how many hours you can bill; it depends on your efficiency. Cut out time-filler bad habits and focus on your task.

  8. Don't expect less work. In house counsel has a reputation as an easier job but that's not true. Corporate work may not include client acquisition but it has its own stresses.

  9. You are not the boss. As part of the legal department you are one more piece of the business. That means you work for the company, not the other way around.

  10. Keep your contacts. Being in house counsel means you have fewer office mates to ask for legal tips. But if you keep in touch with contacts you'll never lack for a sounding board.

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