Follow ACC Docket Online:  

Five Tips for Becoming a Better Lawyer from Brian Cabrera of NVIDIA

Image: Brian Cabrera, senior vice president and general counsel at NVIDIA Corp

I recently caught up with Brian Cabrera who serves as senior vice president and general counsel at NVIDIA Corporation, a market leader in visual computing. Brian is an accomplished member of the bar as well as a genuine person and an engaging speaker. Cabrera has spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on his career path and articulated the following five principles that have helped him become the lead attorney at one of the world's most profitable hardware companies.   

  1. Be committed. "Chickens are involved, pigs are committed. Be committed." In Brian's breakfast metaphor, the chickens are involved — they contribute eggs — while the pigs are committed, as the bacon for the meal. He then suggested that for a company to achieve the best possible results its lawyers must be committed. "You are not just a lawyer. And you must not be just a passive observer. You should be dedicated and committed. Your team's and clients' wins are your wins. Conversely, your team's and clients' losses are your loses. Lawyers should be part of the business strategy at each and every step. Accordingly, you need to actively participate to ensure that the company achieves the best possible results."
  2. Understand the business. "At a minimum, you need to know your company's products and how they are marketed, how the company makes money and who your customers are. This knowledge must be deep, not just superficial. With this knowledge in hand, you will become a truly reliable and trusted business partner who knows how the sausage is made."  
  3. Develop good judgment. "Many people, including those who are not members of the bar, can locate statutes and find the applicable laws. Merely reciting the law is not a valuable skill. However, understanding and advising business partners about the practical implications of the law will create and add value. Good lawyers apply the law to achieve the best results under the circumstances. Also, try to develop creative and resourceful problem-solving skills. Everything you don't know should be treated as an opportunity to learn. Similarly, every unsolvable problem is an exercise in valuable creative thinking. You should wholeheartedly seek and embrace these opportunities."  
  4. Be adaptable. "We all have insecurities (real or imaginary), disadvantages (self-imposed or societal), and unfavorable traits (self-created or inherited). These won't go away, regardless of one's gender, race or socioeconomic background. The key is to identify them and take corrective actions to make the most of your assets."
    Cabrera said he has significant hearing loss in his right ear. To address this issue, his mother ensured that he sat in the front right corner of the classroom so he could face the teacher with his good left ear. To this day, he always tries to position himself to one's right or directly in front during the conversation, in order to hear the speaker better. Taking full advantage of his assets has served him well and has become part of his professional strategy.  
  5. Develop and maintain genuine relationships. "If you find yourself thinking: 'I'm competent and hardworking, what am I missing? Why am I not progressing as quickly as I would like?' chances are that a lack of genuine relationships — both internal and external — is the answer. So, make sure you connect, keep in touch, and develop relationships with peers, colleagues and clients. These relationships are resources that will differentiate you and help you excel."   

About the Author

Olga Mack Olga Mack is a startup lawyer who enjoys advising her clients to success and growth. Currently ClearSlide General Counsel, she has previously worked at Visa Inc., Pacific Art League of Palo Alto, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. @OlgaVMack

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.