Is your career based on considered choices you planned or has it unfolded as part of a process you didn’t necessarily foresee?
I’d definitely say it’s part of a process I didn’t foresee. I went to a firm out of law school with an open mind – part of me was willing to ride it out if it seemed worth it, while the other part of me was ready to jump ship if something better came along. But it ended up being about 7 years in when I finally started to really see a specific appeal to going in-house.
What do you enjoy most (and, if you’re willing, what are the least enjoyable or hardest parts) about your current role?
I love the practical (and somewhat ad-hoc) approach to solving problems on the in-house side. Having direct access to our clients on the business side makes it much easier to talk through questions and ultimately we usually end up with a better (and more efficient) result. I like the fact that on most days I run into issues that I haven’t seen before – I’m constantly learning new things. Most of all, I work with a really terrific team of people – friendly, great sense of humor, and very smart.
What skills and personality traits lend themselves to success in your field?
Flexibility, tact, and judgment are very important. The answers to questions that come up in-house are not always obvious. You need to have an open mind, but also be able to trust your gut. And always be aware of your audience – put yourself in their shoes, try to understand where they’re coming from – before you start offering up your two cents about the best way to deal with a given situation.
What advice do you have for someone who hopes to find a job similar to yours/in your field?
Network. Talk to everyone you know that’s in-house and find out what they do and how they got there. Then find out if they know other people you can talk to. Rinse and repeat. If you’re looking to move from a firm to an in-house role, think carefully about the type of work you’re doing at the firm. Litigation roles in-house are few and far between. So to the extent you can vary your experience while at a firm – by getting some transactional experience and doing whatever direct client-counseling you can – it’s definitely a help as you look at roles that maybe don’t directly line-up with the majority of your firm experience.
What has been the best surprise in your career?
It’s amazing how fun it is to see the daily impact of work you do in-house – helping an in-house client get a deal done, or just answering a simple question. Seeing concrete results is very satisfying.
What might you do differently, in hindsight?
I would have started networking much earlier, learning more about the in-house world – and I would have tried to make the move after my 4th year.
What do you do outside of work that helps you be successful?
It’s important to do a few things outside the office that have nothing to do with the law and can put your mind in a different space so when you do show up at the office you’re refreshed and often have a better perspective on whatever it is you’re working on that day. Whether that’s something fitness-related, music, art, community service, or just reading good books… make it a priority.