🕴5 Key Takeaways: Legal Department of One

This Tuesday, we had an enlightening discussion with 3x GC, 5x author, and creator of the award-winning Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel blog, Sterling Miller about how you can survive (and thrive!) as a legal department of one. Here’s what we learned.

1. Clarify your Role

To put it lightly, starting as a solo GC can be, well, terrifying. Tight budgets, high expectations, and open-wide room for both success and failure can amass into an overwhelming scenario for anyone stepping into the role. You want to flesh things out with your employer so you can clarify what your role is, and what’s expected of you before you even have your first day. It goes without saying…any gets should be cemented in writing.

2. Befriend Risk

While the legal profession may be particularly dedicated to mitigating risk, a solo GC may have a bit of unlearning to do. You may be used to running decisions through a slew of associates, and taking generous time before making a decision. That’s all out the window in-house. Getting comfortable with risk is a must.

3. Stay Inventive

No matter how hard we try to change the dialogue, legal is still viewed as a cost center. Instead of lamenting that tight budget, get inventive! Pool your existing resources, reach out to your network, and engage yourself in community. Just because the money’s not there doesn't mean you can’t build out a great legal infrastructure.

Oh, and if you’re looking to join an emerging legal community— join our own private community of in-house leaders! It’s a place to network, share ideas, and meet other like-minded professionals.

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4. Learn the Business

Let’s face it, as a company’s first GC, you’re thrown into a chaotic environment with many fires to put out. Start with the basics: learn how the money’s spent, get up to speed with the product, and pinpoint any pain points. Reach out to your team, and try to connect with someone in each department (yes, even sales!). Work to adjust your mentality to the risk profile of the company, and balance the tight line of both value creation and risk destruction. It doesn’t hurt to pick up a bit of the financial basics— it’ll paint a much clearer picture of the biz.

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5. Plan Ahead

Chances are, you’re not always going to be a legal department of one. Think early about who you’ll hire down the road when the opportunity opens up. Will your first hire be a paralegal? Legal ops role? Attorney? Keep notes on the issues the company is facing, and keep track of the money you’re currently spending. A hot tip? Note the value that bringing that spend in-house will bring, and speak up about it.

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📆 Coming Up

If you loved this panel and can’t wait to see more…

Join us as we speak to sustainability in legal expert Christine Uri to learn why sustainability matters, what legal can do about it, & take away some tips to get started.

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📚 Resources Mentioned

Whew, there were SO many great resources mentioned during this panel. Here are Sterling’s top recommendations:

If you’d like the full pitch deck from this discussion, click here!