Putting Together Top Legal Teams

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 28, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"By their fruits ye shall know them," Jesus said almost one Christmas and 2,000 years ago.

He was talking about how to know the difference between true prophets and false ones. True ones produce good things; false ones, not so much.

Although Jesus wasn't a big fan of lawyers, his analogy could be a how-to on putting together a good legal department. Otherwise, as Forrest Gump said with a holiday box of chocolates, "you never know what you're gonna get."

Stellar Qualities

It takes good pieces to put together a good legal team. But companies need attorneys with more than legal skills; they want lawyers who produce good bottom lines.

FindLaw's Neetal Parekh cited several qualities of stellar in house counsel. They are:

  • Effective communicators
  • Can do cost-benefit analysis
  • Mastered the art of meetings
  • Manage time well
  • Multitask with ease

Ultimately, the legal team should include an heir-apparent. It should be someone for the general counsel to mentor, who can take over when necessary.

A "Dream Team"

Olga Mack, writing for Above the Law, said Airbnb assembled a "dream team" with Veronica Abreu and Jennifer Lam. Abreu was general counsel for the company, and Lam was her first hire.

The lawyers said part of their success stemmed from a shared vision for the company. They both understood the technology, and how their work fit into the company's business strategy. After Abreu moved on, Lam was ready to assume leadership.

"I view myself as a partner to the business team -- we are all trying to solve the same problem," she said. "Offering alternative solutions and options is important in the partnership dynamic and it's where I feel I add the most value."

The duo helped the company navigate challenges to the business model, which resulted in a $31 billion valuation this year. That's a lot of chocolate, no matter who you believe.

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