At the end of June, The Centre for Legal Leadership hosted the third in a series of webinars in conjunction with Practical Law on developing your career in-house. This post explores some of the themes that the panellists discussed during the session and that were raised in questions from an online audience.
Remember what is important to you
Whenever you apply for a new role, create a short checklist outlining the criteria that are the most important to you. For example:
- Work-life balance.
- High-quality work.
- Growth and development opportunities.
- Corporate culture.
For further information, see Practice note, Assessing your own needs when considering the suitability of potential new in-house roles.
Be prepared to take on new challenges
Most in-house lawyers are generalists and therefore the transition from a specialist role in private practice is likely to provide a steep learning curve. However, it does represent a great learning opportunity.
Support from your organisation is important for career development and it is vital that you take any opportunities that arise. For example, one panellist completed an executive MBA at Harvard, which helped them improve their leadership, change management and strategic skills, among others.
In-house lawyers can also broaden their horizons by taking on responsibility for adjacent areas, such as:
For further information, see Article, Managing the corporate communications function.
Moving into a leadership role
It can be difficult to identify potential leadership roles in-house due to flat management structures, so be prepared to carve out a niche for yourself, build your network and increase your visibility within the organisation.
You could also look for leadership experience outside Legal. For example, by taking on leadership of a project or by moving into a different part of the business (for further information, see Article, Beyond the legal department: a secondment to Finance).
The power of networks and mentoring
Networks play an important role in career development. These can include connections from university, law school, business school and via former colleagues. It’s often through a network that you hear about a role before it is advertised. For further information, see Video, Becoming a master networker: tips for lawyers.
Mentoring is useful too, particularly when making the move from private practice to an in-house role. However, formal mentoring programmes can be rather staid, while informal mentoring, although often helpful, can be rather hit or miss. For further information, see Practice note, Mentoring: an overview.
Tips when starting a new in-house role
You’ll need to pick things up quickly and assume responsibility early on while working in-house, so listening and learning are the key attributes required when starting a new role. Read as much as you can about the organisation’s culture, its operations and, if necessary, its industry sector. It’s vital to define your role and clarify the expectations of your key stakeholders when you start, so get yourself included in discussions with key functions, such as Finance.
For further information, see Practice note, Moving into a new role: the first 100 days.