Hisham A. Masri

The corporate legal environment differs in keen ways from the law firm practice. If you find yourself newly working in a corporate legal department or work closely with your corporate counterparts, then it is useful understanding the unique challenges you will face in the corporate environment. To help young lawyers understand the dynamics of the environment and better serve your clients, here are three tips from in-house counsel:

  1. Be a Trusted Advisor – Understand the Business:

One of the main distinctions between private practice and in-house counsel is the deep integration of legal roles within the broader business context. You are expected as in-house counsel to understand the company’s industry, operations, and strategic objectives. Even more importantly, your role is to help the company achieve its goals within the confines of the law.

In-house counsel are required to provide opinions beyond legal matters and, to be successful, must understand their industry, business model, and the key performance metrics. Thus, to effectively provide that legal advice, young lawyers should seek out industry groups and immerse themselves in the company’s business model, culture, and long-term goals. You can often find useful information in SEC records, ESG reports, the company’s website, and some focused research on the company and its industry. This can often lead to business opportunities if the Company recently announced a major acquisition, a restructuring, or hired a new Executive.

  1. Understand your audience:

A wise mentor once told me that all jobs are communication jobs and, as lawyers, we are in communication roles about the law. Effective communication is paramount for in-house counsel. Unlike law firms, in-house counsel’s colleagues are often not lawyers. In-house counsel regularly works with human resources, finance, accounting, information technology, and operational leaders. Thus, whether you are drafting something for in-house counsel or the courts, it is imperative to understand your ultimate audience. The length of your correspondence and the tone must change depending on that audience. Starting with your recommendations and using bullet points or perhaps changing to a PowerPoint presentation, if appropriate, will pay dividends when tailored to the audience.

Additionally, you must communicate often and keep your communications succinct. You are often working with busy stakeholders whose main job is not legal-related. Your ability to explain the key legal topics succinctly and concisely matters more than ever when working with corporate colleagues. Regular and open lines of communication help establish rapport and build trust for the ongoing relationship.

  1. Learn Continuously and Share Often:

Young lawyers should take the time to understand the scope of their in-house colleague’s roles and further their eventual goals and interests. In-house counsel must stay informed of changes in the legal landscape that may impact the company. This includes monitoring industry trends, regulatory developments, and new law. Being proactive in anticipating legal challenges allows young lawyers to provide timely and strategic advice to the company. Thus, young lawyers should stay informed about industry developments, regulatory updates, and legal precedents that may impact the company. Then communicate with your in-house counsel who will value the additional resources. As an added bonus, they’re much more likely to contact you for that work if that issue were to arise.

Young lawyers should also actively seek opportunities for professional development, attend relevant seminars and conferences, and stay informed about the latest legal technologies. Being proactive is often a highly coveted skill sought by businesses as they want their lawyers helping them solve problems often before they occur. By staying abreast of legal trends, in-house counsel can offer proactive advice and position themselves as indispensable assets in the ever-changing corporate environment.

Practicing these tips will lead to professional success for both you and the clients you serve. They will help you relate with your in-house counsel’s experience and see around corners to solve their problems. Together, you can find fulfillment and find pride in how you serve your clients and this profession.

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Hisham A. Masri is Employment Counsel at Flowserve Corporation, a global manufacturer of valves, pumps and seals. He continues serving his legal community as the 2024-2025 President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. He is the joyful husband to Victoria Mourtada and proud father of Celine and Jude.

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Articles on the DAYL website are provided for informational use only, and are in no way intended to constitute legal advice or the opinions or views of the DAYL.