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An In-House Counsel’s Maxims for 2020

As I prepared for my last column as a Writer in Residence for Ms. JD, I decided to conclude with something that reflects my own personal approach to my in-house practice.  Although I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions, every December I jot down some guiding principles that I use to refine my mid- and long-term professional and career goals.  Below are four maxims I’m taking with me into my in-house practice for 2020:

Fight the Inertia.  Inertia is, by definition, a tendency to remain at rest or remain unchanged. With any new initiative or project that you champion, you’ll find that you must constantly battle the personal, team, and corporate inertia to do nothing remain in its current state.  Depending on your company or in-house practice, change management can be a significant part of your role in the company, so knowing the best ways to fight against the propensity to do nothing or to continue using the same process or procedure will be essential to accomplishing your goal. 

Seek out the small victories.  When you’re working on a large scale, long term project, it is sometimes difficult to find any progress when you’re in the thick of it, and it can seem like your long hours and hard work are not amounting to anything tangible.  When you feel like you are wading through proverbial quicksand with no end in sight, it is easy to lose focus and initiative, and then the project loses momentum.  I aim to look for and point out the small victories in these types of long-haul projects, then celebrate them with the team.

Capitalize on data. When trying to demonstrate the value-add for a particular proposed process, system, or initiative, it is easy to provide anecdotal evidence to support my recommendation, but I’ve found that these types of observations are often not enough to appeal to my internal clients. If I’m armed with hard data, such as projected savings or projected increased throughput, my recommendations are weighted in something more tangible that translates to the business teams I support. This coming year, I’m going to look for new ways to gather and present data regarding a few of my key initiatives to strengthen the appeal of my recommendations.

Change, even good change, can be difficult.  This is by far my most commonly used phrase in my professional life over the past year.  In 2019, I experienced change in nearly every facet of my professional life: new title, new boss, new colleague, new divisions and new areas of legal practice.  If that wasn’t enough, this month I took a leap of faith and left a wonderful company to join a different company with a brand-new legal team.  As I begin to work with my new team and internal clients, I need to be mindful that the changes I may present to them, no matter how good the ultimate result will be for them and the company, may still be difficult to process, accept, and implement.

While last year I focused more on principles that required me to examine the fundamentals of my role within the company as in-house counsel, my 2020 goals are focused on examining how I can capitalize upon available resources so that I can best foster sustainable, data driven processes and systems to allow my company to maximize the value it derives from my advice and counsel.  I am looking forward to the opportunities and experiences that 2020 will bring, and best of luck to all of you!

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