Learning the In-House Ropes
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What do I do now?

You’re sitting at your new desk, staring blankly out of your huge glass window and you say to yourself: ”What do I do now?”


The move you make next is more than likely going to depend on how big your in-house department is. Departments that have six or fewer attorneys make up approximately 60% of in-house legal offices. Therefore, most in-house lawyers will have vastly more legal issues on their plate than most people, who have roughly around 200 attorneys. Most people are specialized in their company and are required to focus on closing deals. They have a patent department, labor and employment department, litigation department, and so on.

Attorneys in most companies are also expected to become subject matter experts in a relevant topic. For most in-house counsels, this level of specialization is nowhere to be found. Most are expected to be at least somewhat knowledgeable on a vast array of topics, such as: compliance, mergers, securities, and acquisitions, et cetera. Most are always very humbled when they are asked to speak to a group of in-house attorneys, because they know that most of the audience are expected to handle a huge number of topics in order to represent their clients in the best way possible.

For most people their next move would be to educate themselves on the working and expectations of my clients, because no one can hold your hand through the seemingly endless policies and procedures. At the same time, you should be educating yourself on the infrastructure of your company and it’s products and services. After a short bit of time, you should drill down on your specific areas of responsibility, which should be done on your own. This is not to say that there will be no support for you, you just must simply ask.

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One of the most important lessons you will learn in private practice is when to say ”I don’t know.” As a new attorney, there will be a great deal of things that you will not know. Trial by fire is an understatement, but ignorance is something that you should be ready to admit to anyone who will listen to you, and after a time of this, you will have gained enough knowledge to be dangerous. And dangerous is what you should be. After this, it will be time to use another lesson you learned from private practice, and that is how to gracefully admit that you have screwed up.

Soon, the people you have come to work for know that you likely don’t know anything about your new role, which happens often with most new endeavors. This time, that most call the ”honeymoon” period, is the time to make honest mistake, and to learn from them. Ignorance is something that is expected from new workers. But, stupidity will not be tolerated.


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