Powering Up Your Leadership Skills: Insights From In-House Counsel

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Legal Operations
Industry Insights

Charlotte Smith: Jacqueline what does leadership mean to you?

Jacqueline Lee: I heard a great quote about leadership just recently when I was in New York at the American Lawyer Industry Awards, listening to one of the recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The quote he shared was "Your title is what makes you a manager, It's your people that make you a leader" and I thought that was such a great quote because it's so true. A leadership mindset is really all about your people and how you are going to bring the best out of them. Making sure that they're in the right positions and that they have the tools they need to succeed.

Even when im not at my desk I spend hours and hours thinking about my team. How I can support them, making sure they're in the right roles and have everything they need to accomplish all the goals that they have set out.

It's one of the things that has made us successful in building a team, from two lawyers to 10 lawyers, and developing a reputation with our client of being a great team together.

Charlotte Smith: Laura, I'm curious to hear your perspective on this.

Laura Jeffords Greenberg: I see leadership as two different forms. First is leading the legal team by setting either a vision or mission for your team and ensuring that team members understand how their position rolls up into that greater mission, so they have a purpose.

The second piece would really be about leading the legal function within the company. I look at that as branding the legal department. How are you interacting with the rest of the organization, how are you leading the vision and setting goals for certain topics that are within your purview?

Charlotte Smith: John, what are your thoughts?

John Pingel: When we talk about lawyers being leaders, it's a transition.

As a lawyer, especially moving in-house the first thing that you find is there's a lot of "firefighting". There's issues that come up, How do you put out those fires on a day-to-day basis? Being a leader is being able to take a step back from that and seeing what you're actually trying to achieve.

Longer term, how do you move beyond the day-to-day? I love the way Jacqueline phrased it of being all about your team because that's really where you find the space to do that.

One of the key things especially working in-house, is to really understand the business and what the company priorities are.

That's the baseline to being competent as an in-house lawyer. Being a leader is analyzing, establishing priorities, goals and then communicating them in a way that you're influencing other people to carry out their jobs.