Introducing ‘Real Talk’ with Sonya Som
By Sonya Olds Som
/ 21 Oct 2016
In the House is launching a new column focused on the career issues facing in-house counsel. We’ve dubbed it “Real Talk,” because our goal is to give in-house lawyers straightforward and practical advice about their career paths. Our columnist is Sonya Som, a Major, Lindsey & Africa partner who is an expert on career development issues for in-house lawyers. In this installment, she introduces herself and discusses the issues that she will focus on.
Greetings, In-House Counsel Friends! My name is Sonya Som. I am a former law firm partner who is now a member of Major, Lindsey & Africa’s team of general counsel and in-house counsel executive search consultants (also known as recruiters or headhunters) based in Chicago. I am primarily responsible for candidate career coaching, business development, marketing and general networking and relationship-building activities on behalf of my team at Major, Lindsey & Africa.
I am so pleased to have been asked to write a regular column for In the House! I am excited to share insights on career development for in-house lawyers based on my six-plus years of experience “behind the curtain” and to provide access to insights from career coaches, GCs, fellow recruiters and other professional connections in my network who can provide valuable advice.
Those of you with whom I have had the pleasure of speaking, who have seen me present on panels or who have read my previous articles know that I can be counted on to “keep it 100” by providing real talk about how I’ve seen in-house counsel successfully (or unsuccessfully) navigate their careers.
Major, Lindsey & Africa’s in-house recruiters meet with a huge number of talented mid- and senior-level candidates in the course of completing searches on behalf of our clients. Although only one candidate can get any particular job, we genuinely want candidates to do well in every search process, impress our clients, make themselves and us look good, get great jobs (through us or otherwise) and forge terrific careers. So we welcome the opportunity to provide information and resources that will help us help attorney candidates and help them help themselves.
This column will focus very heavily on the importance of developing emotional intelligence and cultivating relationships in your in-house career. While hard work, relevant experience and intelligence are incredibly important, these are the assumed, minimum barriers for consideration for any opportunity. EQ skills, gravitas, executive presence, business acumen and relationship-building abilities are among the qualifications that you will frequently hear recruiters and clients cite as the tie-breakers between two in-house attorney candidates.
In my job, I’m primarily responsible for strategizing and leading networking, business development and marketing initiatives for our In-House Practice Group team throughout the Midwest. I focus on sourcing in-house counsel search opportunities for attorneys at all levels — from junior counsel to general counsel — in corporate legal departments in a wide range of industries and by developing and maintaining relationships with general counsel, human resource leaders and other C-Suite executives. I also provide career advice to attorneys and have been recognized as a thought leader regarding diversity in the legal profession nationwide.
Before joining Major, Lindsey & Africa in 2010, I was a law firm partner, and I focused my legal practice on the representation of individual and business clients on a wide variety of labor and employment and immigration-related matters. In 2007, the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin named me to its “40 Under 40” list, and I was included on the Lawyer of Color’s 2014 Midwest Region Hot List. I’ve also authored, co-authored and been interviewed for many articles on topics including diversity in the legal profession, networking, social media, personal branding, market trends and career strategies for lawyers, and I regularly speak on panels on these topics nationwide. And I maintain a prolific social media presence on Twitter (@sonyaoldssom) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/sonyasom).
In my next column, I’ll address the buckets of critical professional relationships that I advise in-house counsel to develop and maintain throughout their careers.