How to Make the Best Impression at a New Legal Job
Congratulations, you’ve just landed a new role as an in-house counsel for a company in Melbourne. It’s an exciting time because you’re the first in-house lawyer the company has hired, having just finished things with an outside firm. Everyone is keen to see how bringing an in-house legal role to the team will change things, but that also puts a lot of pressure and responsibility on your shoulders.
To start, as a way to help secure your in-house legal role, and hopefully to expand your new department and remit, you need to kick off your time there by making a killer first impression. The good news is that you won’t have to do all of this just on the first day. You’ll have a bit more time to build this impression, but you should consider all of the following and try to make them happen as quickly as possible:
- Define Your Remit Clearly, and Share with Your Colleagues
If you’re the first in-house counsel that a company has hired, then it’s quite possible that other people who work there won’t be fully clear about what it is you actually do there, or what you have been brought in to do. In fact, there might even be some concern among your colleagues that you’re being brought in to scare people, or that your remit has something slightly sinister about it.
Of course, the vast majority of these fears and assumptions are completely wrong. The most likely scenario is that you have been hired to protect all of your colleagues, and the company, from getting into nightmare lawsuit situations.
- Always Dress the Part
As the in-house counsel, you are a natural figure of authority and someone upon whom others depend to give advice, offer protection and reassurance. That role demands a certain standard of professional attire; one that reflects the solemn nature of the position you hold, and that tells people at all times that you’re ready to talk shop, listen to their concerns, and get down to legal business whenever it’s necessary.
There’s just something quite reassuring when the lawyers (accountants, too) are in their suits.
- Act Friendly and Maintain an Open-Door Policy
As we mentioned earlier, there’s a good chance that some people are unsure as to what you are there to do in the company, so encouraging your colleagues to come and talk to you about that remit is a good idea. Ultimately, you want all of your colleagues to feel comfortable coming to you to discuss potential legal conflicts and issues that may arise from their mistakes. Gaining their trust and respect is therefore paramount.
If you maintain an icy demeanour around you, then you might get some respect, but no one will trust you to listen and empathise with their situation. That leads to problems not being addressed at the earliest chance, and that’s always a problem where legal matters are concerned.
- Communicate Legal Matters with the Wider Team Regularly and in Engaging Ways
As the in-house counsel, you’ll likely be responsible for keeping the firm out of litigation with outside parties, but you’ll also have to ensure that everyone within your own organisation follows the rules and guidelines that are set out to prevent damaging conflicts.
A common example might be sexual harassment. The in-house counsel can make a strong impression by proactively arranging for meetings, seminars and the creation of learning materials that clearly inform colleagues of policies and expectations on these matters.
- Join In Office Activities
Finally, if you want to ingratiate yourself and your new department into the team, then be sure to join in with office activities as and when you can: after-work drinks, lunches, get-togethers and more. When people see you as part of the business family, they will trust you more.