Important Skills In-House Counsel Should Master

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on January 05, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Remember when landing a job at BigLaw was the holy grail of law school graduates? Hard to believe, but that's now old hat. The new brass ring in the law world is in-house -- with luck, general counsel.

But before you can firmly call yourself established in your position of in-house legal counsel, you're going to have to master a few skills first -- like outsourcing your work, believe it or not. Even with that, being in-house is no easy task.

The Role of In-House Counsel

If you're one of those people who reasonably believed that in-house counsel was a one-stop shop for a single client who did all of that particular company's work, well -- you got that half right. Few companies today rely on the efforts and labor of just a single attorney they hired. General counsel will usually have a few other in-house attorneys working below her to assist in the footwork.

But even that's beginning to change. These days, GCs are often strategic grand viziers who advice the CEO and founder as to the right general course of action. Once the company head has made his decision, the GC's time is much better spent looking for new areas to keep the company out of trouble. The actual work? It gets contracted out for third-party attorneys to fix up.

In House: A Special Breed of Lawyer

There's a world apart between law practices and this cannot be overemphasized with in-house lawyers. In-house counsel wouldn't know the first thing about approaching a PI case; just as a PI attorney wouldn't know the first thing about how to draft a Non-Disclosure Agreement. Here are a smattering of skills that in-house counsel should already be pretty good at:

  • Drafting transactional documents having to do with financing the company.
  • Knowing the ins-and-outs of different business organizations and the benefits and drawbacks associated with each.
  • Negotiating and re-drafting of NDAs for employees and even outside counsel.
  • Collaborating with outside counsel to defend the company's rights in IP, settlements, business transactions, etc.
  • Preparing new corporate procedures.
  • Ensuringoper company compliance through employee education programs and review of articles of incorporation and bylaws changes.
  • Counseling outside counsel in above to advance the company's interests.

There's a reason why in-house lawyers get paid the big bucks and get rather enviable flexibiltiy in hours -- they have to know their (fill in expletive). Think you're up to it?

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