In-house attorneys have a vastly different set of rules and responsibilities than solo attorneys or lawyers working in law firms. An in-house attorney reports to the CEO and handles all the company's legal and external business. This can include contracts, litigation, mergers, compliance questions, policy issues and investigations.
Consistently Demonstrate Value
The in-house department has its own budget but doesn't generate revenue. This means that, since he won't be able to point to revenue to prove his usefulness, the in-house attorney must be a savvy businessman who can consistently show the CEO he's adding value to the company. He will need to use statistics and reports to demonstrate this in a tangible way the CEO can understand. For example, he might show a chart that demonstrates how much money he has saved in future litigation costs after discovering an area where the company wasn't complying with the law and remedying the problem.
An important goal of an in-house attorney is to have a proactive focus on constantly striving to stay updated on changes in the law and finding new ways to mitigate risks for the company. An in-house attorney shouldn't just sit around waiting for disaster to strike so she can jump into action. She should actively monitor the company's compliance with relevant laws, implementing policies to maintain and check on compliance and keeping her finger on the pulse of the company's health.
Become Part of the Mission
An in-house attorney needs to align himself with the company, becoming a champion for the company's mission. He should alert the CEO if any elements of the company's goals could break any laws. Thoroughly understanding the firm's goals will better help him make decisions for advancing the company. He shouldn't be seen as putting up barriers to advancement, but as finding solutions with as few trouble spots as possible.
Do Your Homework
It may sound obvious, but an important part of an in-house attorney's job is doing her homework. This includes studying the company's key markets, reading the company's business plan and understanding the organizational hierarchy. An in-house attorney should spend time reviewing the company's history, reading its annual reports and proxy statements, reviewing Securities and Exchange Commission filings for the last two years, and thoroughly understanding all products and services the company has offered over the last two years, recommends the Association of Corporate Counsel. Making this a top goal will help the in-house attorney do her job as well as possible.
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