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From General Counsel to business leader – legal risks aren’t the only factor.

May 15, 2019

general counsel legal services in-house lawyers leadership skills

I enjoyed reading this piece on the need for General Counsel to bring more than just their legal skills to their role, with stories from several GCs on how they developed those wider business skills. As far as my own career journey has gone, the biggest jump was going from private practice to in-house and working with commercial teams on the ground, the move from providing a business with a service, to being the business itself.

It is because of the value of these non-legal skills applied in a legal role that we developed the Halebury model – to provide clients with senior in-house lawyers who could be a flexible extension of their legal team and bring a client-centred private practice approach to legal services delivery with the skills their had gained from their roles within industry – the best of both worlds.

One of those lessons: Don’t worry about knowing every aspect of the law—but learn every aspect of the business. While in-house, Melamed found that offering legal advice that was too risk-averse or didn’t provide an alternate solution was a quick way to be discredited. It’s a lesson he drilled into all Intel lawyers.

“The word ‘no’ should be part of the active vocabulary of every Intel lawyer. But then I went on to say that it’s easy to say no, you read the law, you say, ‘Gee, there’s a legal risk here, don’t do it.’ What you really want to do is say, ‘No, but …’” Melamed said. “You want to say, ‘No, you really can’t do it that way, but here’s a way that is 80 percent or 90 percent of what you want as a business matter with significantly reduced legal risk.’”

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