I recently came across an excellent blog designated for in-house lawyers:
The post on ethics is quite interesting, starting from the premise that our affluent lifestyle is probably more owed to corporations than to politics.
Quote: “If you want to know who has had a greater impact on your life, Maximilian Robespierre or his contemporary Allesandro Volta, try reading all the articles about Robespierre in your Sunday colour supplement with the lights turned off”.
There are some good points here on what an in-house lawyer can or should do. One of the take-home points for me is that only an in-house lawyer is truly able to get to the underlying facts of a particular situation. There is a limit to what an external lawyer can do and sometimes even internal lawyers wont get to all the crucial information necessary to give comprehensive advice. But they are in the best position to get it.
The other post on what to do look out for when first joining a company as in-house also has many useful comments and insights. I found myself nodding when the author talked about the ‘becoming a decision maker’ part of the role. As in-house lawyer, sometimes you will just give advice. But at other times, your advice will be the actual decision, the thing which has to be done. And you have to impress that on your clients, i.e. the very people who might be paying your salary. Not easy.
What I liked in ‘Name the behaviour’ was that it said what I have been preaching for a long long time: when giving advice, be concise, get to the point. Avoid legalese, use simple words and sentences. Apply the law to the practice and give options and solutions, with respect to the law, but without explaining it – no one is interested in the obstacles, only in solutions.
And finally, there is this good article on ‘five skills of successful in-house lawyers’, which says the same and even better:
The most fundamental rule that in-house lawyers need to learn early is the need to stop “speaking legal”. Using legal jargon and concepts is a sure-fire way to alienate business colleagues. Internal clients and other stakeholders are likely plenty bright thank you very much, but have not had the benefit (or pain!) of years of legal training, so rather than using legal shorthand because it’s quicker and easier for you, engage brain and translate into plain English. As with drafting, it’s harder and takes longer to begin with, but the end product is far more useful to a non-lawyer.
So you have to cut to the chase, do it quickly and in simple terms:
The concept of “good enough means good enough” was discussed – the idea that in-house lawyers often do not have the time to do a “Rolls Royce” document review, and that there was a need for lawyers moving from private practice to become comfortable with the idea that it was better for them to spend 15 minutes looking at a document to highlight the key issues before a meeting, than either (a) for no-one to look at it at all; or (b) to wait for enough time to do a “proper job”, only to find that the business couldn’t wait for the advice and has gone ahead without any advice at all.
That says it all, I guess.