Assertiveness Tips for In-House Counsel

By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 07, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In-house counsel really are a different breed of animal in the species called 'lawyer.'

For most, the archetypical attorney is the most aggressive character in the courtroom and walks with a confidence that barely masks conceit. In-house lawyers, on the other hand, too often have their hats handed to them in the boardroom.

This post is about how in-house counsel can be more assertive, without appearing overly aggressive like their counterparts in the outside world.

Aggressive, Bad

Unfortunately, the predominant stereotype for a lawyer is a bad one. Aggressive, hard-nosed, combative, pit bull, ___hole. Fill-in the blank, they all mean the same thing.

Even if it's what clients expect, it is not a good look. Judges, opposing counsel and savvy jurors know it is an act or a character flaw, and it just gets old.

Fortunately, in-house counsel live in a different environment. They don't have to play that part; that's what outside counsel are for.

However, there is something to be said for being a confident counselor. Of course, they have to speak up to say it.

Assertive, Good

Harvard Business Reviews repeats the conventional wisdom that assertive people get ahead.

"They tell people what they think, request the resources they need, ask for raises, and don't take no for an answer," Amy Gallo writes.

She says reserved people can do it, too. It starts with self-evaluation, measuring a degree of assertiveness, and applying it through setting goals and building relationships.

"Feel free to be friendly and empathetic while asking for your needs to be met," says management professor Daniel Ames.

Sounds like in-house counsel, right?

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