Attorneys considering a move inhouse need to hone their soft skills and should cultivate a familiarity with finance, business and office politics if they are going to succeed and thrive in their new roles, according to panel of experts speaking at a continuing legal education session in Manhattan on Thursday afternoon.
The panelists, all current or former general counsels, reflected on the qualities and abilities that define attorneys who successfully transition inhouse and touched on the occasional friction that occurs between an unseasoned corporate counsel and his or her new colleagues.
Outside attorneys are valued with sharply defined metrics — billable hours and a book of clients whereas in-house lawyers' worth to the company is more intangibly determined, according to Michael Sachs, a partner at recruitment firm Major, Lindsey & Africa and a former general counsel.
"A lot of the value comes down to soft skills," Sachs said. Companies want "someone who can be proactive, someone with gravitas, someone who can speak to a CEO."
He continued, "When I talk to law firm attorneys, they're talking about all the cases they've done and deals they've done and that's great ... but the real value is going to be how you present yourself and how you engage in those rooms."
Sachs noted that when companies were looking for talent to staff or lead their legal department, they did not typically factor in whether or not an attorney had an MBA.