Monday, March 16, 2015

Knowing what you don't know

I'm often asked what the biggest difference between in house and outside counsel is from the practicing attorney's point of view.  In honesty, I don't have a great answer since my only experience at a firm was doing summer internships during my 1L summer.  What I do know is how it looks to me now - having more than a decade of in house practice under my belt, sometimes as a client to my outside counsel colleagues.

The biggest difference isn't the billable hour, the work/life balance or even the amount of time spent on client development.  The biggest difference is in the way we think.  Law firm lawyers think like lawyers, exclusively.  They issue spot and will list every conceivable outcome.  They will agonize over the risks of a sloppily written indemnification clause and will argue for days over the psychology of selecting a venue. And they are very, very good at knowing what they don't know and seeking help when they reach that point.

On the other hand, in house lawyers think like an amalgam of lawyer and business person.  We don't have time to analyze every little issue, just the big ones.  We don't have the luxury of caring about the .01% chance that venue will come into play, because if we get there it's already done irreparable harm to our business. We make decisions based on half the information all the time, and often go with our gut when it would take too long to shepardize the latest case law on how arbitration clauses are being interpreted by the courts in various jurisdictions. This is what I call practicing law at the speed of business. If we don't get a 'good enough' answer now, they won't wait around to ask us for our perfect answer next time.  So we speed through and take calculated risks (after fully disclosing and getting buy in on the risk profile with the company leaders).  And we often suck at knowing what we don't know.

This is especially true for those of us who practice in small or solo legal teams that have to support every aspect of the business, often on a shoestring budget.  And it makes our relationships with law firms so much more valuable.  By being our sounding board on new issues when they arise, a law firm lawyer can position themselves as our partner in this journey and not just the legal expert in a particular area. By tactifully pointing out general areas that need to be considered - and not the laundry list of every single potential issue no matter how minimal - a firm lawyer can gain a reputation as being reasonable and practical.  Which is great if you want me to send you business on those issues I need outside help on, and even better if you ever want me to recommend you for that in house opening that someone told me about.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top 5 Must Do's For The First In House Counsel

I've done the first in house - first GC thing a couple of times now, and each time I do I learn something different.  But a few lessons have remained constant through every industry, role and political environment. I originally picked up these tidbits of gold from mentors and colleagues who had been where I was and had turned their solo departments into respected legal teams of some very respected companies.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to learn from them (and smart enough to actually listen!).

A couple of weeks ago I was having a similar conversation, only I was on the other end of it - giving the advice.  And while I thought about all of the crazy things I've discovered being in house at start ups and tech companies, the listens learned from that first gig and those first mentors seemed more important.  So I'll share the top 5 things for the first in house/GC to do:

1.  If possible, only do it once.  We all know that a lot of the practice of law is repetition.  We negotiate the same clauses in the same agreements with different parties.  Which is great when you're a firm lawyer because billables. But in house repetition can kill you.  You don't have time to recreate the wheel every time some one needs a contract.  Create templates and processes that reduce the amount of time you have to spend on something - eliminate all unnecessary repetition.  You'll be so happy you did as you discover the 1000 other things you should be doing with your time that add a lot more value (and visibility) to your role.

2.  If it doesn't take a lawyer, don't do it.  It's hard, especially in a start up - but there are some things that you are simply over paid to do.  This seems to be more of an issue for women lawyers, but it often falls to the first in house person because they are new and their roles are often undefined.  But secretary of the board doesn't mean you get coffee for everyone.  Nor does being the most efficient mean that you have to coordinate all meetings.  You don't need to sit in on every meeting - just ones where you actually add value or get value.  And just because your HR person or team lead doesn't want to have a difficult conversation with the employee about their hygiene doesn't mean that you have to do it for them.

3.  Know the business better than anyone else.  In order to understand the risks you have to mitigate or advise on this strategy or that, you have to understand the business.  Get to know how your product and services work on an intimate level.  Understand where the money comes from.  You don't have to be able to code, but you should be able to explain how it works generally.  One of the most irritating things to a business person (and one thing that will get you uninvited to many a meeting) is not understanding the role of the company in the ecosystem.  Know your competitors, know your product, know your company.  Get in deep even when there are no legal issues at play.  Once you understand that, you'll be a million times more productive in all the rest of your job.

4. Technology is your friend.  Ten years ago the best technology we had to help our in house practice was word processing and maybe, if you were really ahead of the game, Sharepoint.  Now, there are a ton of technical tools that can streamline processes and add automated controls so that you don't have to personally be involved in every thing that the legal department does.  You may spend a little upfront, but what you spend in development costs is saved in personnel and overhead.  Just like the tools for every other department, some of these can be homegrown adaptations of existing platforms or completely custom tools built in house.  Others can be bought off the shelf or modified by a vendor. There is literally something out there for every need (you may not be able to afford it, but it's there!)  And it's not hard to show the ROI on a contracts management system when you can show a reduction in transaction times that leads to revenue faster, or a docketing system that allows you to renew important IP in a timely and cost efficient manner without hiring a specialist just to perform that duty.

5.  Act like you belong there.  New to in house and the first in house counsel will face a similar issue of not quite knowing where you fit in.  Your title may put you at an exec level or a mid level manager.  Your role puts you in at least a somewhat strategic position like it or not.  So act like you belong at the table on day one.  Don't be cocky - just try to learn at first.  But you should make your rounds with every executive in the company.  Introduce yourself and ask how you can  make their jobs easier.  Ask what time you should be there for that meeting, not whether you should come. And, it doesn't hurt to make the VP of Sales come to your office for the meeting once in awhile.  Remember, you teach people how to treat you.  Act like their peer and they'll treat you like that.  Act subservient and you'll always be treated that way.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Going 80 in the slow lane

It was one of those mornings.  It feels like it's been a week of one of those mornings.  Stayed up too late, so getting up early was difficult.  For the kids as well; they were in no mood to brave the cold for school.  So we're all running just a bit late.  I jump on the toll road because it's faster.  As I merge on the highway I notice that the cars are flying by me like I'm sitting still, one truck must have been doing at least 100 mph. I think I must be idling, but when I look down at the speedometer I'm doing 80!  

Ever feel like you're running a top speed and still not getting anywhere?  Like no matter how hard you try or how fast you go, you're getting passed up left and right and there's no hope of catching up? That's sort of what it feels like your first year in house (or in a new in house position).  I call it the speed of business.

Everyone else in the office moves at top speed at all times.  And they don't wait for you to catch up. If you're not clear on the new technology they plan on releasing in the next sprint, too bad.  The dev works been done, the marketing team has already placed the buy orders for the ad space and the finance team has already baked the expected revenue into the quarterly projections that will be disclosed to the board in next weeks meeting.

They can do that because business works best in the grey - when we're not 100% sure the tech is actually going to work as described, or the marketing will be innovative enough to grab attention but not offend. Business drives at 100 mph 24 hours a day all around the globe.  But for legal peeps, we don't speed very well.  We like to know all the facts, analyze and then make a judgment call.  Then we go through plan our action prior to taking it.  And this ensures that we don't ever get a ticket for going 100 mph in a 65 zone.  But it also ensures your company that a competitor will get there faster. So then you find all your coworkers going around you because you're too slow.

The trick is to hit the ground running, start the day at 65 and expect to speed up.  But lay the groundwork so your top speeders have to slow down.  Put into to place the process and procedures that weed out the known speed traps, and explain that's what your doing.  Find the back roads, alternative routes or even toll lanes where the speed limit jumps so you can get a jump on the competition who get caught in the speed traps or refuse to speed.  And give enough wiggle room so that everyone can go 5 to 10 miles over the posted limit when necessary.  You may find yourself doing 80 in the slow lane for awhile, but eventually traffic flows catch up and that guy doing 100 has to slam his breaks or wreck his truck while you pass him by going with the flow because you've taken stock and know where the next window of opportunity is likely to pop up.      

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 - A Year of Self Discovery.

About a year and half ago, I went through a bit of an identity crisis.  I had what should have been the perfect job, but was unhappy professionally.  For the first time in six years I wasn't pregnant or nursing but somehow still felt like my body wasn't my own.  After a lifetime of struggling with my weight I finally figured it out and lost a ton - going from a size 18 to a size 4.  Yet I didn't feel comfortable in my own skin.  I had no idea who or what I was anymore.  So I left my job and spent the summer with the boys.  I tried several different styles, read a bunch of self help books and generally tried to analyze myself into happiness.  It didn't work.  The only think I learned during that time was that I am not a great 'stay at home' mom - I need work to be self fulfilled.

So I went back to work, disappointed in myself and still not knowing exactly what my place in life should be.  Now, a little over a year later, I'm looking back at 2014 and realize that this is the year that I found myself.  I finally found my work style and now know why I was so miserable before and what I need to do professionally to be happy.  I've discovered that although I miss the closeness I had with my infant sons, they are so much more fun now that their personalities are emerging.  And I've found my own style and feel comfortable in my new skin - stretch marks, wrinkles and all.

The funny thing is, I didn't find any of this in books or mommy groups.  I found no answers while staring in the mirror and trying to analyze every aspect of my misery.  I found the answers by jumping into life head on.  When things didn't feel right I changed them.  I didn't analyze what the next step should be, I just took it.  If it wasn't right, I took another.  Then another.  And somehow, I ended up here.  At the end of 2014 and very excited about what 2015 will bring.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Dear Santa - my annual letter on behalf of in house counsel everywhere

Since my letter last year went over so well - even got a few things on my list! - I thought I'd try my luck again this year.  So here goes:




Dear Santa,

Thanks again for all the goodies you brought last year.  I love the the contract management system (SringCM rocks!, Thanks to Dinesh for making my crazy Visio workflows a reality.)  I also appreciate the sales people who are trying their best to get deals in early so I'm not rushing around like a crazy person on New Year's Eve attempting to get that contract signed.  I'm still waiting on the new world order where my lack of testosterone doesn't automatically mean I also lack the same pay.  Until then, I love this video and will proudly wear my own label.

For this year, I'd love to have law firm lawyers (and maybe a few family members) actually understand what it is I do all day.  At my reunion I was inundated with questions about how this or that works.  I was amazed to see how many very smart people that I went to school with think that I don't actually do any real work, and I only work 30 hours a week.  Not sure where they get their ideas about in house counsel responsibilities - but could you bring them a clue for Christmas?

I also want a  few months (because I know a year is too much to ask), where laws that won't ever pass aren't in the daily news.  So I don't have to spend an hour each day explaining it and why it doesn't matter to us to every employee who watches CNN or Fox News.

While we're talking about getting a break, how about a break from the sales people trying to sell me legal services/tech at the end of the year.  I get it, it's their end of quarter and they need to make their numbers. But guess what, it's my end of quarter/year, and my sales guys need me to focus on their stuff right now.  Plus, I'm out of budget for the year anyway.  If they must, tell them to hit me up in January when everything else is a bit slow.  But I'll give a hint - I haven't yet bought anything from a cold call.

And just 'cause it's Christmas - is there anything you can do about the making Christmas Calories really not count?


Thank you again for last year's gifts.  I promise to be Good for 2015 (as long as I get to define Good!).

Sincerely,
Your in house lawyers.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Obligatory Thanksgiving Post - where I really do give Thanks!

As the holidays approach I can't help but start mentally conducting a year in review.  It seems this year marked the rise of a new type of feminism.  Although in full disclosure, it may have always been there, and I only noticed it this year.  Maybe I've finally come to a point in my career/life where I'm not so inwardly focused that I can actually see what's happening around me on a macro level.  From the push for more Women in Tech to Emma Watson's He for She speech, even Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella saying that women shouldn't ask for raises has pushed the issue to the forefront - at least for me.  And as I see more women trying to make a difference, I'm struck by how lucky I am to have had so many strong women support me.  So, this year's Thanksgiving post is dedicated to thanking them.

It may have been my uncle who pushed me to dream big and who taught me to learn from every experience, but it was my aunt Diana Kaye that instilled a strong work ethic and a belief that I don't need to wait for someone to do it for me.  It's because of her that I know the value of hard work, even when no one else is watching.  So for that, Thank You Kaye-Kaye.

I've also been blessed by an awesome group of women, without whom I would have never made it through Professor Rose's contracts class, much less the rest of law school.  When the socially isolating aspects of law school started to get me down, one of my girls was always there to pick me up and get my head out of the rank related neurosis.  And for that I owe a big thanks to Stephanie Vinca-Sandell and Kari Jill Granville-Minton!

During my last year in law school, I interned at a then little known company named GoDaddy.  I worked for the toughest New Yorker with the biggest heart you'd ever met.  She's also one of the smartest people I've met.    She taught me more about how to work a room to get what you want while keeping your integrity and sincerity than I knew what to do with at the time.  She also taught me the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.  A mentor is a great person to have on your side, she will guide you, advise you and be a sounding board when you most need it.  A sponsor will go to bat for you.  Will risk their own reputation to give you chances you wouldn't otherwise have had.  Thanks to Ms. Nima Kelly for showing me just how important both mentors and sponsors are.

Because of Nima, I got the amazing opportunity to work for a women who epitomizes the word Mentor.  Christine Jones took every opportunity to challenge me and help me grow, both professionally and as an individual.  She taught me how to 'think like a lawyer' back when I didn't understand what that phrase meant.  I still go to her for advice on everything from making my next career move to what makes the most sense in support of my family.  And she always makes time for me.  Even though she's since moved on to bigger and better things, she answers the phone when I call and returns my emails the same day.  I wouldn't be who I am today without CJ.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And I wouldn't have met a lady who touched my life so profoundly, I may not have become a mom without her influence.  When Keena Willis came to work for CJ, she was a friendly co-worker.  But over the years we worked together she became family.  She was sister to me in a way that I had never connected to my own sisters.  Her strength as a single mom was an inspiration to me.  Her connection with her family and those of us who became family was awesome in the true definition of that word.  Although we've grown apart due to distance and other obligations, I know without a doubt that I could pick up the phone and she would be there for me instantly - because that's what family does. She doesn't know that the nights after I first found out I was pregnant I thought of her and knowing what family could look like comforted me - even though I was hundreds of miles away from my own.  Thank you Keena - you rock!

Speaking of family, my own sister Bonnie Bailey continues to inspire me with her drive to improve herself everyday.  After being knocked down time and again, she continues to get back up.  Each and every time stronger than before.  She reminds me that it's never to late to start again and no dream is too big.  She'll be graduating from college the same year her son graduates from high school.  And she's doing it as a scholar!  How she manages it all is still a mystery, and she still has time to listen to me vent about everything from diapers to egos.

Since moving to Austin, I've had so many friends, co-workers and mentors that I could go on for hours about each.  But it's getting late and I need a glass of wine - so I want to thank Sarah Tuchler, Tina Letcher, Connie Ruthven, Nancy Ebe, Amy Fitzgerald, Crystal Hill, Ann Benolken, Angela Vogeli and Leslie Thorne for showing me how powerful having a network of strong professional women can be, and how nice it is to have friends in a new home town!

I'm off to my wine - but don't be shy, who are you Thankful for this year?

Friday, October 31, 2014

In House Nightmares

I've not yet met a person who has never had a nightmare.  I've dreamt of aliens still my baby (while I was still pregnant with him) and a multitude of other equal crazy but frightening scenarios.  My boys wake up from nightmares induced from every scary movie they're not supposed to watch but that Daddy let them watch anyway.  And most lawyers I know have the occasional nightmare about never getting out of the student loan debt - okay, maybe that last one occurs more often when awake than asleep.  Point being we all have fears that manifest in our subconscious and affect our sleep.

In honor of Halloween, I'm going to answer a question often asked of general counsel - what keeps you up at night? Here are my top 3:

1.  An intense negotiation or high stakes deal will almost always result in the lack of sleep - even though it also results in me being extremely exhausted by the long hours and emotional roller coaster every one of these seems to bring.  When I do finally fall asleep I'll dream of the provision we're fighting over or the wording of that illusive clause.  It's infuriating when even sleep one give you a break.

2.  Compliance. Just that one word is enough to keep me up in to the wee hours.  The fact is that no matter how vigilant we are, there will always be some little thing that we didn't do.  I'm okay with that.  We do our best and we know what risk we take. What keeps me awake is the thought of what we don't know.  What authoritative body is going to claim jurisdiction next?  What is my IT team doing (or not doing) that I don't know about?  What are my sales people out there saying? And to whom?  Everything that's on my radar is fully assessed and managed within the best ability of my team.  But what about what's flying under my radar?  That's the stuff of nightmares.

3.  Office politics suck even when you love the people and the work.  But I've yet to work at any type of company in any capacity where office politics aren't important for your career and success at that employer.  Which means that sometimes who said what to whom will stick with you long after the work day ends.  And sometimes those concerns seep into your subconscious and your dreams, like the one time where my HR Director was chasing me around the office trying to give me the ax - literally.  Glad we sorted that one out.

Ok, now the top 3 (work related) things that keep me up at night.  What's seeped into your nightmares?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reflections and Gratitude

As I sit on the plane on my way home from visiting law school friends that I haven’t seen in a decade, I’m reflective of how much I have changed over that time.  I have had 5 different jobs at 5 very different companies.  I’ve gotten married, had kids and moved 1200 miles away from those very dear friends.  I’ve made new friends and new connections and I have grown tremendously as both a person and a lawyer.  But since this blog isn’t usually about what my kids are up to these days, for this post I’ll focus on the growth as a lawyer.

I’m a little surprised at how much I’ve learned, and how I can trace skill sets back to a particular position, company or experience.  My first out of school job was at GoDaddy.com back before it was a household name.  I learned a lot about technology, the internet and marketing.  I gained a lot of experience with trademarks and various laws surrounding marketing.  I learned about defamation and online trolls.  I even got a little exposure to how to respectfully deal with the alphabet soup of governmental agencies while protecting your client and looking out for the greater good.  From my boss there I learned about integrity and doing what you say you’re going to do.  I also learned what it’s like to have a great team surrounding you and meeting people who while their daily presence in your life may be brief their impact on you is ever lasting (yes, that’s you guys CJ, Keena and Nima!).

I moved to Austin reluctantly leaving a job I loved for the greater good of my family.  And quickly started working in a large microchip company you may have heard of, Advanced Micro Devices.  I worked there supporting a very fun group of procurement types.  I learned a lot about negotiations from them.  I gained a lot of experience in drafting and revising contracts.  And got more than a little exposure to how a contract management system can make the work of 3 attorneys doable for 1.5.  I was never bored and always busy, but I also learned that reviewing the same contract, with the same requests to modify by new suppliers day in and day out isn’t optimal for me.  I like more variety in my day and wanted to broaden my experience.

So when an ad popped up on my news feed looking for a company’s first in house counsel, I took a little of that youthful ego and applied. (of course I can do this, why not?  Doesn’t matter that I know nothing about ATMs, the banking industry, employment law or anything outside of negotiating contracts and supporting a very active marketing team!  Of course I can support an entire division encompassing the United States.) I hit the ground running in that job and learned so much in the first few months that looking back, I’m surprised my head didn’t explode.  I gained experience in employment law, managing litigation, creating contract management systems and protocols and lot of that “blocking and tackling” that is required when you’re the first.  I also learned a great deal about professional politics and working with very strong personalities, who had very strong opinions.  I discovered that I loved the variety, the work was interesting and there was definitely a lot of it.  But the politics was something I needed to get better at, half the job of a senior level in house attorney is managing people.  I needed more experience and few good mentors.

So when an opportunity came my way to jump into a similar role but at an internet e-com company whose organizational structure was more simple I took it.  I again delved deep into the blocking and tackling of setting up a legal department/function where there once was none.  I worked on improving my communication style with a group of very talented individuals.  I gained experience in larger litigation matters, creating IP management programs and started to wade into international matters with a UK presence.  I loved the technology and I loved the people.  But I also learned a very humbling lesson at the right time.  I can learn a lot about a lot, but I can’t be an expert in everything and there are some things that I can’t do.  I couldn’t make up for the lack of experience in certain areas that was shared by the team.  And I still needed to improve on my communication skills.  So I started a blog, started networking like a champ and have grown into a style of my own.  And I now understand that while you may have to adjust your style, if you have to change it completely for a job, it’s not the right job for you – no matter how much you love the work or the people.  I also know that it’s actually rewarding to step back and let someone who has the skills and style necessary to carry the company to where it needs to go. 


With my next move (and current gig) I have again taken on a lot of blocking and tackling and have utilized all of the skills each of my previous moves have given me.  I’ve put into practice the idea that matching my communication and style to that of my boss when selecting the job means as much as liking the technology and the company.  I’m getting great experience working with an equity backed company and the intricacies of dealing with the board, the fund, and the pace of constantly being in fund raising mode.  I’ve finally grown into that confidence I had taking on a role I should have run from, and I’m proud of who I’ve become and who I know I will continue to grow into.  And I owe a large part of that to the co-workers and mentors at each of the companies I worked for.  Many of whom may not even know they played that role for me.  So for everyone who I’ve crossed paths with on my professional journey – Thank you!  Hopefully I will make you all proud too and remember to pass on the great lessons you have taught me.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cybersecurity Rant

In 2013-2014, data breaches have gotten as much headline attention as ISIS, Ebola and the mid-term election.  All with very similar coverage, that is a lot of fear mongering and not much information.  Because I work (and have for the last decade) legal and compliance for companies where data security is a top priority as a requirement from our customer base, every time a new breach hits the news I get a ton of calls with questions and rants about what corporate America is (or is not) doing to protect against this new menace.

As long time readers know, from time to time I make a public service posts that have more to do with the latest pain in my ass than with the in house practice of law.  And lucky you, this is one of them.
We need to collectively take a deep breath and stop the mass panic over the cyber breach, and really please stop sending me invitations to the sky is falling CLEs on the subject.

Look, businesses need to be vigilant and take the appropriate actions to prevent as many breaches as possible.  This is a given.  I have a guy at work who spends all day long (and probably has nightmares all night long) dreaming up what could go wrong and trying to make sure we've prevented it.  I'm not going to give a pass to any company who puts their non-critical AC functions on the same server as their PCI data.  However, treating every breach like it's all caused by gross negligence, and having an media trial convicting every company of malice and greed because they didn't do enough to keep your data safe is ridiculous.  Have you kept your data safe?  Really?  Keep your insurance card in your glove compartment?  Yes?  It has your full name and home address on it.  If your car was made in the last few years, it also has a garage door opener built right in.  You've just given any wanna be car thief the means to rummage through your house.  Keep any personal information laying around at home? Your negligence has allowed a potential data breach of your house.  How could you!  You should be locked up and the key thrown away!  (Insert fake outrage here.)

Ya, not all breaches are created equal.  And that's why the reaction and way a breach is handled is so important.  And why we, the public, need to chill just a little.  Did you know that there are 47 different breach notification laws in the US alone?  And some of those laws conflict – in one you must notify the state AG first before notifying the public.  In another you must notify the public within a given timeline (one that doesn’t give much time to coordinate with other state’s AGs).  And then there are insurance requirements if you want the breach covered.  Not to mention the criminal investigations and the requests from the various alphabet soup agencies.  Dealing with a breach isn’t easy and it takes time to fully understand it.  And quite frankly, we the public, should want every organization to be able to focus on quickly finding out what caused it and stop it from continuing without having to divert attention to managing the public panic.

This is not to say that organizations need to step up their game. The number and scope of breaches this year has been unbelievable.  We need to be ever vigilant – the criminals are getting smarter, better technology and they spend as much energy building these operations as many founders of legitimate tech start ups do.  Organizations need to at least endeavor to be a diligent as they are in protecting our customers against their intent.   And that may mean reassessing what type of data we collect, how we collect it and what we do with it.  But you Mr./Mrs. G.Public, need to be diligent too.  Don’t give data to questionable sources, don’t jump to conclusions of malice and realize that for all the convenience and low prices you are demanding as a consumer comes at a price.  Either be willing to pay a bit more for better security or add yourself in the blame mix when your payment data gets compromised.  Oh – and stop complaining about it to the only person you know who actually understands how it all works.  OK end rant, back to our regularly scheduled program soon.


Monday, September 29, 2014

What I Wished I Learned in Law School

I'm coming up on my law school reunion and my social media circles are buzzing with former classmates reminiscing about what they recall from our shared law school experience.  While going over the various top 10 lists being posted, I can't help but also think about all the things law school didn't teach me.  Don't get me wrong, I loved my time at law school and the unique programs that I was able to participate in while obtaining a certificate from the Center for Law, Science and Technology within ASU.  The basic IP and contract drafting foundations I received has helped me tremendously - but most law students don't take those courses (if they're even offered at their school.) With articles coming out daily on the disastrous legal market  and struggling law school grads, I can't help but think if law schools incorporated some of these missing lessons into the course plan these baby lawyers would be more prepared for the real world - and thus more valuable to those of paying for them.

1. Your role as a lawyer is an adviser, not hall monitor.  Business make decisions everyday based on a calculated risk.  Your role as counsel is to provide the necessary information so that the business can assess the risk.  This includes worst case scenarios, but you also have to communicate the probability of that happening.  Yes, if customer A or vendor B breaches clause X as written it could be a catastrophe; but 99.9% of contracts are never materially breached and customer A depends on vendor B almost as much as vendor B depends on customer A. So the likelihood of a situation that clause X would cover can't be handled through the ordinary course of business is not very probable.  Let's not hold up a multi-million dollar deal that means a lot to both companies because of the .1% chance.

2. They won't always listen to you - don't take it personally.  You're used to being one of the smartest people in the room.  You're confident and persuasive and people generally do what you want them to do.  And then you go in house.  Half the time you're not invited to the decision making conversations and when you are, they're just as likely to ignore your advice as they are to take it.  It's not personal.  You haven't lost any IQ points and you are just as persuasive.  But you only represent a piece of any decision being made.  Sometimes, those other pieces outweigh you, even when you're right.  It may be economic, it may be political, it may be someone's ego.  It doesn't matter, because it has very little to do with you personally.  If you find you're being ignored a lot and left picking up the pieces after everything blows up time and again - find a different employer.  On the other hand, if your voice is occasionally drowned by competing interests, but the business doesn't materially suffer from it - suck it up.  That's your job.

3. Math is way more important that you think it is.  I often joke that I became a lawyer because I'm too squeamish to be a doctor and couldn't stand the math required to get an MBA.  It's partially true - I can't stand any bodily fluids and math has never been one of my favorite subjects.  But it's absolutely critical to have at least a general understanding the basics of accounting, what a P&L is, how to read a balance sheet, calculating ROI, etc.  You can't protect your client against the financial risks if you don't understand what your client does and how they actually make money.  And you'll never be invited into a board room if you don't understand why the cost to acquire is an important metric.

4. Soft skills rule over legal acumen almost every time.  You may be able to quote the UCC verbatim, or draft the most pristine patent application.  But if you can't communicate effectively to every member of your team, then you will fail.  That means you must be able to have a conversation about proper copyright clearance with the intern working in marketing as well as be comfortable discussing the status of that matter with the board.  At the end of the day, neither audience has to be your best friend, but they do need to respect you and feel like you are contributing to the conversation.  That means you have to learn how to read your audience, and provide the level of detail necessary to convey your message without getting preachy.  You also need to maintain your confidence if intensely questioned by the CEO or other executive.  Learn to build your executive presence and invest time in mastering effective communication.  I promise you won't regret it.

5.  They hint at it in law school and you've heard it growing up - it's not what you know but who you know.  When you're looking for the second (or third, or fourth) in house job the truth of that statement will hit you like a ton of bricks.  You can never stop networking.  You may love your job and then the economy tanks and your company does layoffs.  Or the economy is great and your company gets bought.  Or your current GC isn't going anywhere and you want to move up.  There's a million reason why you will be looking for that next job and there's a million ways to get it.  One of the least likely ways is through a posting on a job board.  Never stop networking.  Grow your network by meeting new people.  Improve your network by adding value to those in it.  Give referrals, help others find jobs when they're looking, connect those with similar interests or goals.  Become a valuable person to have in their network.  It takes effort, and time that's not allotted for in your daily job.  But let this one item fall and it could greatly damage your career even if you are the best lawyer in the world.

That's my top 5 'What I wished I learned in Law School'.  What are yours?