Ten Issues: Constructing Your Government Presence In-Home


With regards to “government presence,” I now get pleasure from being older with quite a lot of grey hairs.  Consequently, lots of people (my spouse, daughters, and diverse canine and cats excluded) have a tendency to concentrate to what I say and even hunt down my recommendation.  However, it wasn’t at all times this manner.  I used to be a younger, clueless in-house lawyer as soon as.  I used to be additionally self-aware sufficient to understand it.  And I knew that in some unspecified time in the future in each in-house lawyer’s profession, to maneuver up the chain (or present your worth), you should discover a method to undertaking government presence with out the assistance of Father Time.  I think many in-house attorneys hear this at evaluate time, i.e., “To progress right here you should enhance your government presence” or one thing alongside these traces.  Sadly, that’s often in regards to the extent of dialogue – it was for me.  Just a few amorphous criticism with out clear steering about what precisely you’re purported to do subsequent to bag this elusive unicorn.[1]  Sadly, there is no such thing as a class in regulation faculty on the subject and you can’t order government presence from Amazon (at the very least not within the USA).  As an alternative, all of it turns into a weirdly irritating technique of trying to find one thing the place you usually don’t know the place to look or what it appears to be like like.  Like trying to find truffles in Nebraska.  Sarcastically, you may usually go searching you and see those who “have it,” i.e., they appear naturally gifted with government presence – it while you see it!  However that does most of us little good.  The excellent news is that it’s a talent (or, fairly, a set of abilities) that may be discovered and honed over time.  This version of “Ten Issues” gives you with a highway map to develop the important thing abilities needed to construct your government presence:

1.  What’s it? Ha!  I’ve screwed myself proper from the beginning as a result of I’m struggling already to outline what “it” is.  Regardless, right here’s my take.  Government presence for in-house attorneys is a few mixture of abilities involving mind energy, persona, communication, and look that impacts the way you make your in-house purchasers really feel after they’ve spoken with/met you.  The precise mixture lets you encourage them and trigger them to hunt out and worth your recommendation and counsel.  They really feel assured about your means to assist them clear up their drawback, regardless of how advanced or scary. Likewise, they may learn and think about what you need to say with an open thoughts and a predisposition towards following your suggestions.  When you end up on this place, you seemingly have the manager presence your supervisor or the corporate is clamoring for.  Under I set out the mix of abilities almost definitely to get you there.

2.  The “Look.”  Look issues lots on the subject of government presence.  My working assumption was at all times that the enterprise trusts the “man with the tie” and tried to decorate and look the a part of a critical in-house lawyer.  Did I put on a tie each day?  Nope (although I’d now and again).  However I used to be positively not sporting t-shirts and ill-fitting pants.  That mentioned, I notice each firm is completely different, and, for a lot of, the gown code – even on the C-Suite degree – is just about non-existent.  Nonetheless, you need your in-house purchasers (and the manager staff) to take a look at you and suppose – instantaneously – that that is somebody we will belief with substantial points, and we need to hear what they must say.  My recommendation is to observe how the senior leaders of the authorized division and the corporate gown and emulate them.  It might be a bit boring, however in case you are taking pictures for government presence (or the final counsel chair) it’s a key constructing block.  And, in my expertise, you may by no means go fallacious being a bit over-dressed on the workplace.  Nobody will suppose twice about it.  They’ll suppose a number of occasions over when you present up in a raggedy “Nirvana” t-shirt or a mini-skirt.[2]

3.  Approachability.  Folks observe and hunt down individuals they like ( this from your personal expertise).  This can be your entire premise of Dale Carnegie’s The right way to Win Mates and Affect Folks.  It’s additionally true.  Which means that being approachable and likable are key attributes of management.  As you look to construct your government presence, spend time contemplating the way you come throughout to your staff, your friends, and your boss (when you’re undecided, ask!).  Are you somebody they look ahead to talking with or does the considered a gathering with you make their abdomen harm? Hopefully, it’s the previous!  Your purchasers and colleagues shouldn’t be afraid to method you for assist.  Give attention to the next:

  • Make everybody really feel welcome once they attain out to you.  If you happen to’re too busy to talk, reply, or meet with them immediately, simply allow them to know (properly) that you just’re pressed for time in the intervening time, however you’ll get again asap.  Don’t give them the massive sigh, eye roll, or exasperated “what the [funk] would you like?” look.
  • Have a humorousness.  The job is hard sufficient.  Enable your self to chuckle at issues, particularly on the subject of poking enjoyable at your self.  Nothing humanizes an government sooner than just a little self-deprecating humor.
  • Be a collaborative companion.  Identical to in kindergarten: play good, share, use “please” and thanks, do your share of the work, be useful, and so on.   If individuals know working with you can be a great working expertise (even when the task is hard), they may search you out.
  • Be a reliable companion.  Nobody likes somebody who doesn’t hold their phrase.  Do what you’ll say you’ll do.  Hold confidences.  Be somebody the enterprise desires to speak to and open up to.  Everybody desires to work with somebody they’ll belief.

4.  Wonderful communication abilities.  All profitable leaders have mastered the artwork of communication.  Most significantly, they impart in the precise manner for his or her explicit viewers.  You talk in a different way with manager-level staff than you do with the Audit Committee of the Board of Administrators.  Study to learn your viewers and talk with them in a fashion that’s each applicable for the circumstances and works for them.  Clearly, issues are typically extra formal and buttoned up with the board and looser and extra down-home with others – you want to have the ability to do each.  No matter which viewers you could have, when writing or talking, hold issues easy and to the purpose. Don’t be the overly wordy lawyer who makes everybody groan while you open your mouth or once they see an electronic mail from you of their inbox.  Much less is often a lot extra on the subject of presenting authorized points in-house.  The power to translate lawyer-speak into plain phrases is important. Likewise, don’t assume your viewers is aware of about authorized points and even cares that a lot about them.  Change into a trainer and make the subject attention-grabbing and informative.  And by no means discuss right down to individuals.  Information is energy, however don’t wield your superior data of one thing like a membership.  Preparation is the important thing to good communication. Except you’re caught unaware, at all times take as a lot time as you may to arrange your communication/presentation, be it an electronic mail, a PowerPoint, a gathering, or no matter.  Lastly, think about the bodily attributes of communication – they matter!  Make eye contact, management the pitch of your voice (the decrease the higher), lose the “ums” and “likes,” keep calm, get snug talking to teams, and pause ceaselessly when presenting to provide your viewers an opportunity to ask questions (or simply digest the knowledge you’re offering).  Take into consideration the entire unhealthy communication you could have skilled over the course of your profession and do the alternative!

5.  Judgment.  Folks will flock to your banner in the event that they consider you persistently train common sense.  Common sense, nonetheless, virtually at all times depends upon the circumstances.  In different phrases, you don’t stroll the halls making good judgments at each flip, therefore the “train” a part of the phrase.  You train common sense by having a philosophy round the way you make choices, i.e., you could have a course of you observe that helps you, as a rule, make good choices and, thereby, show common sense.  It took me some time to determine this out, however as soon as I did, I broke it right down to a psychological guidelines that I ran by (and nonetheless do) when confronted with the necessity to make substantive choices.  Right here it’s:

  • Don’t make choices while you’re mad or upset.
  • There’s at all times one other facet – what’s the opposite facet of the story?
  • Don’t make assumptions – be taught the information.
  • What info am I lacking and the place do I get it?
  • Who wins and who will get harm?
  • Who else must be concerned in making this determination?
  • What’s the firm’s threat tolerance and the way will this slot in?
  • Do I must make this determination instantly or do I’ve time to suppose extra about it?
  • What are the three almost definitely issues to occur after I determine?
  • What’s the draw back of my determination?
  • Am I being constant?
  • What’s the “proper” factor to do (and why can’t we try this)?
  • What would Abraham Lincoln do?

I do know the final one could seem a bit odd, however being a President Lincoln aficionado, I consider he mastered the artwork of fine choices and common sense (learn Workforce of Rivals).  Did he at all times get it proper?  Nope.  However neither do I and neither will you.  Having a “technique” to think about issues and attain choices, nonetheless, will – as a rule – result in good, decisive choices, the offspring of fine judgment.

6.  Know the Enterprise.  I believe my subsequent ebook is likely to be referred to as “Know the Enterprise,” as a result of I harp on this explicit attribute continually.  You can’t be profitable in-house if you don’t perceive the corporate’s enterprise, i.e., the way it makes cash.  With regards to government presence, lots of the abilities mentioned on this article hinge in your understanding of the enterprise.  Plus, the enterprise is more likely to belief somebody who clearly demonstrates a command over how the enterprise operates.  Your means to i) discuss in regards to the enterprise in actual phrases (and never summary), ii) to take a look at completely different authorized points delivered to you and nil in on the influence (good or unhealthy) to the enterprise, and iii) focus on strategic points (usually non-legal) all rely upon how properly you perceive the corporate’s enterprise mannequin, its services and products, its key prospects, opponents, and distributors, and its objectives and strategic path. It’s on you to be taught it.  Go do it!

7.  Flexibility.  After I was a younger in-house lawyer, I usually fell again on “as a result of I mentioned so” as the rationale the enterprise ought to observe my suggestion or path.  Not my most interesting moments I’ll admit.  One factor I discovered is that the enterprise desires to grasp the thought course of that goes into authorized recommendation – similar to they do with enterprise choices.  You want to have the ability to “present your math.”  If not, and if you don’t present that you would be able to be versatile and sensible, the enterprise will tune you out fairly shortly.  Even worse is they may begin to keep away from you or look to go round you. In different phrases, a key part of government presence is your means to undertaking flexibility and provides sensible options.  Begin with this straightforward reality – the authorized division doesn’t run the enterprise.  We’re there to provide recommendation and choices, but when the enterprise desires to do one thing completely different that’s typically nice. [3] As long as the precise individual is making the choice they usually have the precise info to take action. Subsequent, think about any authorized recommendation and choices you present within the context of whether or not or not they’re sensible and doable in the true world, i.e., the world during which the enterprise operates.  If not, you could have an issue.  Lastly, think about all of the methods to get to sure vs. taking the simple path to only saying “no.”  If the enterprise is aware of you’ll do your greatest to discover a path ahead, they may come to you and they’re going to hearken to you even when the last word reply is, certainly, no.  In the event that they suppose you’re rigid and on the lookout for methods to say no, they won’t.  It’s that straightforward.

8.  Management. This one is admittedly essential as it is vitally troublesome to get far on the manager presence scale with out management abilities.  Some persons are pure leaders, it simply comes simply to them.  However, if that’s not you, don’t fear; everybody can be taught to be a frontrunner.  Management begins with having a imaginative and prescient.  The place do you need to go and, extra importantly, the place do you need to take your staff, division, or the corporate?  Leaders are the individuals who usually say, “If I had been in cost, I’d do…” and once they get their shot, they do it.  And extra.  Management requires that you’re proactive and never reactive.  If the whole lot catches you abruptly, you could have some work to do.  And also you should be relaxed with change.  Nothing stays the identical for very lengthy, particularly within the enterprise world and particularly in an in-house authorized division.  If you’re somebody who hunkers down and needs the whole lot and everybody to be precisely the identical because it was yesterday, sorry, however you’re not a frontrunner.  It’s possible you’ll not even be a great follower.  Good leaders delegate properly, promote and mentor others, and defer credit score – ensuring everybody will get good work and the highlight.  They’re naturally curious and ask good questions, not as a result of they need to put anybody on the spot, however as a result of they need to be taught and perceive.  They arrive ready to conferences (even the “small” ones) they usually actually hear, usually letting others go first, pulling everybody into the conversations, and making certain that these within the room really feel snug talking the reality with out concern of reprisal.  I usually requested my staff to take no matter I used to be saying and tear it aside, to search out the weaknesses in my considering.  I’d fairly determine it out internally than get crushed externally as a result of I had a blind spot.  Merely put, management = thick pores and skin.  Most significantly, good leaders are empathetic to others’ conditions, displaying humility, grace, and kindness when needed.  Empathy is a energy, not a weak point.

9.  Gravitas.   I keep in mind watching moot court docket displays one yr in regulation faculty. There was one presentation that has been caught in my head for over thirty years now.  The presenter was requested a really troublesome query by the panel of judges.  At that time, most regulation college students had been in a rush to leap the query and reply as shortly and “deeply” as they presumably might, rattling off the whole lot that they had learn within the supplies with out a lot thought to how related it was to the query requested (i.e., extra is healthier).  This presenter didn’t say a phrase for thirty seconds (although it felt like 5 minutes).  He folded his fingers and adjusted his glasses.  He seemed on the judges instantly and nodded slowly, like he was ticking off points in his head.  Then he calmly and exactly walked the judges by a succinct and sensible reply, utilizing plain English and easy, declarative sentences.  I used to be in awe.  I had simply seen a grasp class in gravitas (although I didn’t know then what that was – I simply knew it was nice).  Honing your government presence means growing and honing your means to undertaking gravitas.  To me it means a mix of the next:

  • Information (material experience and basic).
  • Thoughtfulness.
  • Seriousness.
  • Confidence (and dignity).
  • Integrity.
  • Credibility.
  • Trainer.
  • Performs evenhandedly with good and unhealthy info.

Lastly, it’s poise – working properly underneath strain and being the rock that your colleagues can maintain onto when issues get bumpy or loopy.  Everybody desires that individual within the room with them when issues get robust.

10.  Strategic Pondering.  Your means to undertaking government presence is tied to your means to show strategic considering.  Profitable executives see extra than simply the precise problem earlier than them.  They’ve discovered to suppose “strategically” about issues, i.e., think about a number of components and viewpoints.[4]  For in-house counsel, it means you’re fascinated by extra than simply the instant authorized query in your plate.  You’re contemplating it together with different variables, an important of that are the wants of the enterprise and the strategic plans and objectives of the corporate, i.e., authorized threat and enterprise.  When your colleagues see you as somebody who considers the broader image (and somebody who has educated themselves in regards to the enterprise and the problems it faces) they’re much extra more likely to hunt down and observe your enter as a result of they know they may get greater than only a reduce and dried authorized reply.  They’ll get info and ideas that may assist them make higher enterprise choices.  And that’s extraordinarily beneficial to the enterprise (and to different members of the authorized staff).


Wow.  It seems like I barely scratched the floor right here.  There may be a lot extra I might say about the entire above, however I’m restricted by my format considerably (and your means to tolerate my wordiness).  Additionally, I do know that you’re taking a look at this record and considering aren’t these actually only a bunch of “gentle abilities?”  You’re proper, they’re.  And there are dozens of soppy abilities that an in-house lawyer can grasp to assist advance their profession.  The record above simply occurs to be the subset of soppy abilities I consider are probably the most important to establishing an government presence.  However it’s not an unique record. There are definitely many different abilities you would swap in or add to my record.  It actually depends upon the particulars of your state of affairs.  That can assist you determine that half out, listed here are some extra sources.

You need to think about a large record of abilities and deal with those you suppose will provide help to probably the most given your circumstances (when you’re fortunate, your supervisor can/will provide help to decide).  Lastly, do not forget that constructing an government presence doesn’t occur in a single day, or over the course of a month or two.  It takes laborious work sustained over a protracted time period, together with a willingness to have interaction in a whole lot of self-reflection and self-improvement.  I do know that’s not thrilling, and nobody likes to attend, however take step one and, as at all times, benefit from the journey – it’s one of the best half.

Sterling Miller

February 28, 2022

My fifth ebook, Exhibiting the Worth of the Authorized Division: Extra Than Only a Value Heart is obtainable now!  Because the ABA says, “Purchase this ebook or grandma will get it…”  The ABA is critical about this.  They usually know the place she lives!  You should purchase it HERE.

Cover of Value Book

Two of my books, Ten Issues You Must Know as In-Home Counsel – Sensible Recommendation and Profitable Methods and Ten (Extra) Issues You Must Know as In-Home Counsel – Sensible Recommendation and Profitable Methods, Quantity 2, are on sale now on the ABA web site (together with as e-books).

I’ve printed two different books: The Evolution of Skilled Soccer, and The Gradual-Cooker Savant.  I’m additionally accessible for talking engagements, webinars/CLEs, teaching, coaching, and consulting.

Join with me on Twitter @10ThingsLegal and on LinkedIn the place I publish articles and tales of curiosity to in-house counsel ceaselessly.  

“Ten Issues” is just not authorized recommendation nor authorized opinion and represents my views solely.  It’s meant to offer sensible ideas and references to the busy in-house practitioner and different readers.  In case you have questions or feedback, concepts for a publish, please contact me at sterling.miller@sbcglobal.web or, if you want a CLE on your staff on this or any matter within the weblog, contact me at smiller@hilgersgraben.com.

[1] Severely, how do some individuals ever get to be managers of individuals?

[2] I occur to like my raggedy Nirvana t-shirt.  However, I solely put on it round the home.

[3] Except it’s felony.  Then a unique algorithm kicks in.

[4] That is additionally known as “important considering.”


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