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19 Lessons In-house Counsel Learned in 2019

The end of a year marks a time for reflection. And to wrap up 2019, ACC Docket pored over the articles and topics that resonated the most with our readers. Below are the 19 most valuable lessons that in-house counsel learned this past year.

Leadership 

1. Lessons from Mark Roellig 

Mark Roellig, a former GC of four Fortune 500 companies, has amassed an impressive list of career advice from his 45 years of working. In his final 2019 ACC Docket article, the retired Career Path columnist shares leadership lessons from his storied career.  

2. Lessons from a former Navy SEAL 

More than strength and grit, it takes a lot of perseverance and humility to become a Navy Seal, as Tim Phillips discovered. The chief legal and risk officer at American Cancer Society, Inc. details how these grueling challenges helped him become an effective leader of military and legal teams.

3. Lessons on becoming a leader 

Becoming a leader happens long before your promotion. From working with integrity to being authentic, here’s how to show you’re ready for the next step.  

Ethics 

4. How to be ethical 

Although many organizations believe following the law is enough to be ethical, Anna Triponel, business and human rights advisor at Triponel Consulting, begs to differ. In addition to following the law, companies should prioritize human rights, as some laws fall short of good corporate social responsibility.  

5. How not to be ethical 

Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, was sentenced to three years in federal prison after pleading to several crimes, including violating campaign finance laws and evading taxes. This scandal has served as a cautionary tale for attorneys to avoid becoming disbarred or imprisoned.  

Health 

6. Making time to exercise 

Exercise is critical to being healthy. Although lawyers are notoriously busy, there are hassle-free ways to fit in a workout routine — even if you’re pulling 12-hour days.  

7. Preventing burnout 

With hectic schedules comes unrelenting stress. Try these tips to prevent burnout before it affects your health and productivity.  

8. Managing mental health 

Is it stress or something more? One in three lawyers has a mental illness. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider taking these actions to feel better.  

Compliance 

9. One year after GDPR 

After years of companies scrambling to be compliant to the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the mandate was implemented on May 25, 2018. How have legal departments handled the policies since it rolled out last year? What should they keep in mind for the upcoming year? And have EU regulators clarified the scope of GDPR, and how it would impact your organization? 

Tech 

10. Legal tech roadmap 

The hype for legal technology is never ending. But before committing to a new platform or workflow, which ones are best for your law team? And what’s the best way to implement them? The Legal Tech Roadmap series overviews where to start in your technology journey, which trends to focus on, and how to make your preferred solution successful.

11. Cyber risk assessment  

Breaches are no longer the sole burden of the IT department. Now, in-house counsel are accountable for what happens to client and customer data. To protect your organization’s data and reputation, ask yourself these cyber risk and privacy assessment questions.  

12. Blockchain basics 

Few legal technologies have intrigued — and puzzled — in-house counsel like blockchain. In the three-part Blockchain Basics series, Iohann Le Frapper, group general counsel at Pierre Fabre Group and former ACC chair, and Dario de Martino, partner at Morrison & Foerster LLP and co-chair of the firm’s blockchain group, discuss what GCs need to know about blockchain, how to comply to global regulations, and how to manage blockchain in legal departments.  

HR 

13. Increasing in-house diversity 

Having a diverse staff matters, and people notice if your organization isn’t following through. After the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison hired 12 new partners, most of whom were white men (except for one white woman), 170 in-house counsel signed an open letter urging firms to hire more diverse candidates. PubMatic Inc. General Counsel Thomas Chow, one of the open letter’s signers, offered this advice for companies committed to improving their diversity and inclusion programs.  

14. Creating social media policies 

Social media is often the first and primary way that customers engage with organizations. What appears on your company’s — or an employee’s — timeline makes a lasting impression on the public. Here's how to prevent company social media snafus.

Career 

15. Women new to in-house law 

Entering the corporate legal world is daunting, especially if the odds are stacked against you as a woman. Here are seven tips for new in-house counsel.  

16. Dealing with coworkers 

Conflicts with coworkers are inevitable. However, if your colleague is undermining you, remain professional with this approach.  

Law department management 

17. De-cluttering your contracts 

The Marie Kondo craze swept the world, and, naturally, found its way to the mountain of papers on your desk. Do those contracts spark joy? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you should throw out all of them. Columnist Neil Peretz finds the happy medium with a tidying up guide for in-house counsel.  

18. Elevating your in-house practice 

To advance your career and your legal team, take a page from the CFO playbook and start thinking like a businessperson. 

Litigation 

19. Client issues

From unmet customer expectations to third-party miscommunications, liability is an ever-present concern for in-house counsel. Preserve your company’s brand with these strategies if client issues get out of hand.

About the Author

Karmen Fox is the web content editor of ACC Docket.


The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.