This is a guest post written by Major Lindsay & Africa’s Dimitri Mastrocola, an executive search consultant focusing on placing in-house counsel, who you must follow on LinkedIn for his terrific daily tips on success for in-house counsel and how lawyers can go in-house.

You’ve just accepted an offer to become a general counsel. What should you be doing before your start date?

The first item on your to-do list is to identify a point person at the company who can assist you before your start date. Someone who can ease your transition into the GC role.

Typically, this is someone in HR. Or perhaps a senior administrative assistant in the legal department. Or both.

The key is to work with one or more individuals who can make preparations for you as incoming GC, such as:

  • Gather materials on the legal team, including strategies and objectives that you can read before your start date.
  • Schedule initial meetings (before your start date & during the first few weeks) with the Board, CEO, executive team members, legal team staff and key internal business clients
  • Organize a group meeting with the legal team on your first day as GC.
  • Provide guidance on adapting to the company’s culture and leadership group. If the point person worked closely with the outgoing/former GC, they can provide insights on how to work with the CEO, senior management and the legal team. They can also advise on any unwritten policies, common practices and unique protocols.

When asking for materials, think about those that assess the company and its industry, including:

  • Publicly available information such as securities filings, proxy statements, financial statements, annual reports, media reports, analyst reports and recordings, market data, etc.
    • internal governance documents
    • corporate strategy material
    • employment, stock option, and change-of-control agreements for key employees
  • Background information to understand corporate strategy and priorities
    • information presented in board / committee meetings
    • material the IR team has generated
    • Board / committee minutes from the past year
  • Details about legal team members
    • names of attorneys and other legal staff
    • titles, resumes/bios and job descriptions
    • performance appraisals
    • compensation data
  • Facts about the legal department
    • Org chart of legal
    • outline and status of current legal department goals
    • current legal department assignments – schedule & progress
    • presentations made to the board and senior management relating to legal
    • Legal’s budget and spending for the past 3 years.

Remember that information is power and will enable you to do a better job once you arrive.

For more information about how to become an in-house counsel, contact Dimitri.