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Ask Aliya: How to Be Agile When Changing Industries

“Ask Aliya” is a new column for lawyers who are the first legal hire at their company and need advice from an in-house lawyer who has been there before. Aliya Ramji is the director of legal and business strategy for Figure 1 Inc., a network used by more than 1 million healthcare professionals to share cases and collaborate. To have your legal questions for startups answered, email [email protected] with "Ask Aliya" in the subject line.

Dear Aliya,

I am a little uncomfortable with the fact that I have left my corporate-commercial practice at a large law firm to take on an in-house counsel role in an industry in which I have no real experience — construction. I did not realize all the areas I would be responsible for and I am trying to learn everything I can, as quickly as I can. Where should I begin so that I don’t miss any legal issues?

Lydia


Lydia,

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but you will never know it all. Even when you think you know it all, the world around your organization and inside your company will change continuously. Someone, somewhere in the world might pass a piece of legislation, the management of your company could pivot its mission, or new technology may be introduced into the industry workflow. You will need to be agile enough to deal with adjustments that will reshape your business. This means there will always be areas of the law that you don’t know — and even if you took a primer on every area of the law, you will miss something or the other. This makes us lawyers incredibly uncomfortable.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t be proactive about learning new areas of the law. I think there are areas of the law that all in-house lawyers should be generally familiar with. Obviously, a strong understanding of general corporate-commercial law is essential when entering the in-house arena. Luckily for you, you are entering with honed corporate-commercial skills. You will be reviewing service agreements or product agreements, non-disclosure agreements, and perhaps even dealing with board-level issues. A strong corporate-commercial background will be extremely helpful.

Other areas that you will need to consider are employment law, especially if you don’t have a large HR team. You will need to understand hiring practices, typical employment contracts, and what to do if there is turnover at your company.

Strong industry knowledge will also be very important. For you particularly, there will be construction law nuances that are common practice or industry standard. I would take a primer in general construction law so that you have a lay of the land. I would also be looking for any new developments in construction law that may change the way your company operates.

As you know from your private practice experience, you’ll always need to stay abreast of new developments in the law. When you are in-house, you will necessarily need to stay on top of several areas. Look at what your company is doing and start by focusing on the riskiest aspects of your business. You won’t be able to study every area of the law overnight, but you can constantly increase your body of knowledge. Good luck. I hope you find your in-house work extremely rewarding.

Aliya

 

Photo credit: Purple Canvas Photography


The above is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and cannot be used as such. For additional resources and support, please ensure proper legal advice is obtained.

About the Author

Ramji, AliyaAliya Ramji is the director of legal and business strategy for Figure 1 Inc. She also was a 2016 recipient of ACC’s Top-10 30 Somethings.


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