This is a guest post by Dimitri Mastrocola, an Executive Search Consultant at Major, Lindsey & Africa who places chief legal officers and their teams on 28 practical success tips for today’s in-house counsel that originally appeared on LinkedIn.
If you aren’t following Dimitri on LinkedIn, you should. He regularly posts helpful tips on how in-house counsel can effectively manage their careers and find their next great job opportunity, but the advice he gives can be applied by any professional like this one on success tips and this one on how to effectively network when you’re looking for a new role and how to be a great teammate.
Here are Dimitri’s success tips for today’s in-house counsel.
- Even though there’s enough work to go 24/7/365, you don’t have to.
- There’s no need to respond to every email immediately. And some do not need a response at all.
- Be careful with those “cc’s” and “reply to all.”
- Say/write it as simply and concisely as possible. Get to the crux of the matter asap.
- It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Don’t ever BS your client.
- It’s okay to say “not now.” Learn to control your schedule as best you can.
- Recognize true emergencies. Deal with them as needed.
- “To-do” lists are helpful, but know that your priorities can change hourly. Focus on what’s essential now.
- Listen to understand your clients’ requests. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- Learn the business. Thoroughly. As if it’s your business and your livelihood depended on it.
- Get comfortable making reasoned judgment calls based on an imperfect or incomplete set of facts.
- Deliver news – good and bad – fairly and honestly.
- HOW you say it very often trumps WHAT you say. Don’t be a jerk.
- Don’t be afraid to be wrong. Just be sure to apply sound judgment to get there.
- Don’t work on vacation unless there’s an emergency or to browse emails (set a 1 hour/day limit).
- Be smart when using outside counsel. Tell them how much time you want them to spend on your matter.
- Market the legal department to the C-suite and the business. Consistently.
- Follow the “NO SURPRISES” rule. NEVER let the boss be surprised.
- Make a habit of under-promising and over-delivering. DO NOT over-promise.
- It’s your client’s prerogative to decide priorities. Legal doesn’t run the business.
- Know and show your math, and get comfortable with Excel. The business runs on numbers.
- Be kind and respectful to everyone, even (and especially) when you disagree. (See above: Don’t be a jerk).
- Bring a solution, not just an explanation of the problem.
- Not everything has to be an email. Pick up the phone.
- Conversely, know when an email would suffice instead of a call or meeting.
- Don’t be too proud to ask for help. Even when you’re the GC. Humility can be a superpower.
- A sense of humor goes a long way. Sometimes you have to grin and bear it.
- There’s never enough money, time, or people to craft the ideal solution. That’s a constant, so learn to live with it.
Remember to connect with Dimitri on LinkedIn.