Pass the Turkey: Giving Thanks to the In-House Legal Community

Pass the Turkey: Giving Thanks to the In-House Legal Community

As naturalized citizens who didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, we fell in love with the holiday for the amazing meal and the long holiday weekend. Who wouldn’t love feasting on turkey, gravy, and mashed potatoes for four days? This year, however, we’ve embraced and realized a new dimension to Thanksgiving. After interviewing dozens of in-house leaders for numerous publications, we have learned, transformed, and been truly inspired. This Thanksgiving, we want to show our ultimate gratitude for our amazing readers, the overall support of the amazing in-house legal community, organizations that have supported us, the in-house attorneys who have shared their stories with us, and the priceless lessons we have learned along the way.

“I believe in professionalism, but playing is not like a job. You have to be grateful to have the opportunity to play.” — Wynton Marsalis

We would like to generously thank everyone that takes the time to read our stories, send us kind feedback, and engage with us in thoughtful discussions. Without the constant support and encouragement of this amazing community, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to give a voice to and engage in the kind of conversations we’ve had the fortune to do all year. We also need to thank the Women General Counsel Network (WGCN), an organization that has been nurturing and inspiring us for years, well before we embarked on our writing journey. Jan Kang, General Counsel at Bromium and one of our fellow WGCN members, perfectly articulates our collective pride in this organization. “WGCN has become an amazing force of three W’s – warm, witty, and wise female general counsel,” she says. “I frankly have never imagined that I would help create a community of 270 members across the United States that openly shares and helps each other to thrive and grow.” To this day we use the three W’s as our guidance in every aspect of our careers. We are also immensely grateful to the Above the Law community and the Association of Corporate Counsel (along with its ACCDocket.com publication). Both organization have provided invaluable feedback, and have been pillars of support as we share our lessons learned and insights. Both organizations have allowed us to give the legal community a distinct voice and address its distinct set of needs.

“I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.” — John Steinbeck

 

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We couldn’t have gone on this amazing journey without the unbelievable candor, authenticity, and openness of the many in-house attorneys who have generously shared their stories, lessons, learnings, and victories with us. Through writing and sharing these lessons with others, not only have we experienced growth, but we realized we can impact both our profession and society.

We learned about the importance of maintaining authenticity and developing relationships with fellow women from Michelle Banks, former General Counsel of Gap, Inc. “For me, the workplace feels more authentic when women are equally represented,” she noted. Although she has no prejudice against men, Banks pointed out that when she arrived at Gap Inc., an organization with more women in leadership positions, it was an ideal environment for Banks to grow in authenticity as an attorney. She looked to the general counsel who recruited her to the company, Anne Gust Brown, as someone who was strong, courageous, and effective. Brown was also someone Banks personally found very likeable, and whom she could see herself wanting to emulate. “I could see being a version of her when I grew up, and that thought was inspiring and uplifting,” she explained.

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Eve Chaurand of Change.org bravely shared a very powerful lesson about how she overcame imposter syndrome. Just as leading others forces you to grow, be a better version of yourself, and discover your potential, we learned from Chaurand that empowering others is the best antidote to feeling inadequate. As Chaurand says, “You lift yourself as you lift others.” This is why she never misses an opportunity to help other attorneys understand the symptoms of imposter syndrome and strategies for overcoming it.

“Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can – there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.” — Sarah Caldwell

We also enjoyed learning from Alexa King, General Counsel of FireEye, about knowing how and when to ask the right questions. During the interview process, she asks founders, CEOs and Board members, “What does being General Counsel mean to you and how is it different from being a lawyer?” It’s possibly the most important thing King does to start off on the right foot: setting expectations in a collaborative way. Within King’s first week at a new company, she meets with the heads of each department, asks them about their main challenges, and immediately begins brainstorming how her role and department can provide solutions. King’s fearless dedication to asking the right questions has inspired us to be more open and collaborative in our own lives and careers.

Caroline Krass, General Counsel for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), shared the importance of candor and transparency in risk-taking. Every day, Krass deals with professional risk takers who face danger and, quite literally, whose decisions can be a matter of life and death. She relies on candor and transparency in communicating with these clients. “We communicate our true thoughts at all times,” she says. “We aim to be very clear about separating legal risks from policy ones.” According to Krass, her job is the same as a counsel’s job in private practice or a corporation: saying “No, you can’t do this,” without further discussion, is not an option. Clients need engaging, productive conversations to analyze risks. Krass taught us that the best way to leave clients informed and empowered is to be open, honest, and transparent, not restrictive or patronizing.

This article was originally published by Above the Law.

Giving Thanks to the In-House Legal Community

Giving Thanks to the In-House Legal Community

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