BISNOW ON BUSINESS – How to go in-house!


So youre working at that law firm, staring out the window, thinking how great it would be as a GC somewhere, orchestrating outside attorneys to do the detail work while you strategize with your CEO, and even put yourself on the path to become top dog someday.  The New Year is the time to make it happen . . . but how do you make the leap?  Denise Grant of executive search firm RussellReynolds Associates comes across plenty of attorneys trying to go in-housebut says some arent going about it the right way.  We thought wed do you a public service and get Denises top 5 tips on how to put yourself in the running (or figure out if you really want it in the first place).
Number 5:  Value Equity

Lookee herenot everyone is going to dump barrels-full of cash on you like your law firm does.  If youre going in house, Denise says that a sizeable portion of your compensation package is likely to come in stock or optionsin other words, some form of equity. If that kind of personal stake (with its potential upside, which can be quite significant over the long term, surpassing what you might see in your firm) charges you up, youve got the right stuff.  But if a smaller paycheck in the short term is going to nag at you, you might want to stay snug in those golden handcuffs.

Number 4:  Be a Manager

Companies want people who can manage, Denise says, so youd be wise to establish some credentials for yourself.  There are only so many management roles in private practice (Recruiting Committee Chair might not wow people, but its a start). You can also flex your management muscles in civic and professional organizations.  Also, if youre managing teams of lawyers on cases or projects, start acting like a manager in those instances and think about how those skills would transfer in-house. If youre breaking out in hives just thinking about this, take it as a sign.

Number 3:  Dont Be a Glamour Hog

If constant cutting-edge deal work or starring in the courtroom is what really drives you, think long and hard about the GC thing.  Denise says that GC work involves everything from the sublime to the ridiculous.  While in-house work can be among the most sophisticated out there, it may not be cutting edge every day of the week. The thrill of GC work comes from doing whatever you can to help your business client function best, which at any given moment probably wont involve Fourteenth Amendment arguments before the Supreme Court.

Number 2:  Board Experience

These days, companies want their GCs to know their way around a Board of Directors and have some kind of governance experience, so get yourself exposed to Board work.  While you probably arent going to be serving as a Board member of a public company, you can do work that gets you in front of Boards or Board Committees.  Experience counseling a Board on any topic can put you a step ahead of the competition. You might wanna’ learn rules of corporate governance and even how to take minutes.

Number 1:  Get a Reputation

Not the bad kind, mind you.  Denise says that most often companies want GCs to be experts in something a particular area of the law or the field in which the company does business.  Its invaluable, Denise says, to be known as a leading lawyer in your chosen area, or as someone who can really partner with a client and help with pragmatic business questions.  Companies want a GC who can be a wise and trusted counselor on a wide range of matters. Be warned:  Denise says that speaking on every panel in town probably wont accomplish this for you (if you have time for all that, what are you actually doing for clients?).  Its going to take some good old fashioned work.