How to succeed as a junior in-house lawyer

How to succeed as a junior in-house lawyer

The LexisNexis Aspire networking and professional forum met on Thursday 7th June 2018. Hosted by Sophie Gould, Head of In-house, LexisNexis, this session looked at building your personal brand, in-house counsel’s role in navigating a successful Brexit for your business and included an interactive 'in conversation with' senior counsel who shared thoughts on how best junior in-house lawyers can succeed.

Aspire meets 4 times a year and provides a free networking service which is a key life line to many starting out in their in-house legal career.

This is the last in our series of three posts sharing insights and learnings from the forum. In this post Manu Kanwar, Virtual GC and Legal Strategist, LexSolutions, shares his top tips to succeed as in-house counsel during a frank 'in conversation with' Q&A session.

Your role? Shape business success 

The role of an in-house lawyer is best viewed as helping the business succeed. This is not to say that managing risk and ensuring compliance with obligations are not important, but more that they are part of a more central goal.

Manu’s career started in private practice, where he worked as a technology lawyer at Osborne Clark. He then moved in-house to Yahoo, where he eventually headed the Corporate and Commercial teams across the EMEA region. Whilst at Yahoo, Manu discovered that he enjoyed the business and commerciality aspects of his role, as he could see the immediate impact of his work and see it through to its conclusion – in-house, you’re more connected to the work itself, you’re not just an external advisor.

In this role, he launched entrepreneurial projects within the legal department, looking at what the legal team can do to advance business ideals. This eventually led to the creation of LexSolutions, looking at issues such as:

  • How legal and business can be better aligned
  • How can in-house legal teams generate revenue/add value
  • How can legal deliver on business objectives
  • How can legal help the business to be more effective and profitable
  • How to unlock and deliver the value of in-house teams

Three top tips to succeed as in-house counsel 

Manu's top tips for young in-house lawyers:

  • Accept that there will be preconceptions about legal teams, and do what you can to break them down by building your relationships outside your team
  • Use business language to demonstrate the value of your work
  • Look after yourself – lawyers are being asked to do more for less, but it’s best for you and the business to avoid this where possible.

The group then had the opportunity to ask some questions.

Q: Are organisations really understanding the value of a good work/life balance, and accepting of the idea that this might involve saying workloads are too high?

A: Increasingly, but lawyers are typically conscientious and reluctant to let people down. GCs are keen to know how to attract and retain the new generation of lawyers, so we are in a strong position to follow the example set by other departments.

Ultimately, if your concerns in this area are not being heard, you can vote with your feet.

Q: What do you look for in junior lawyers?

A: A hunger and desire to help and to use legal to help the business succeed. The best advice is to learn what your strengths are and have a strong sense of how you can add value.

Join Aspire today

Aspire is free to join and open to all in-house lawyers in the early stages of their legal career. If you wish to be informed about future Aspire events please register your interest here.

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About the author:

Lauren Fairservice is a paralegal in the LexisPSL In-house, Compliance and Practice Management Group.

Prior to joining LexisNexis in May 2016, Lauren spent a year in-house at ClientEarth, helping to coordinate their climate litigation work and two years in the IP Litigation team at Bristows LLP. She holds the GDL and LPC, as well as an MSc in Environment & Development and a degree in Geography.