asian legal businessMore than a LawyerA crucial part of collaboration is communication. If youre not able to communicate well and convey ideas, concisely summarise a lot of the issues and relay complex ideas to the business, they get really frustrated, says Chan.
As lawyers are expected to get out from behind their desks and interact with many different stakeholders and even have these tough conversations communications skills are essential.
You need to be much more of a relationship person. You need to be comforle getting out of your seat and interacting with the other disciplines within the business, he says.
For example, frontoffice characteristics are not possessed by your typical lawyer and therefore not every lawyer is suile for inhouse. You need to be very comforle having direct, important conversations, and occasionally even having tough conversations. This is business you cant be afraid of hurting feelings.
Companies dont want an inhouse lawyer who will just sit at a desk all day, replying to emails. They want someone who can even attend sales meetings, and in that way really understand the business, especially since every business right now is becoming so complicated.
This is particularly true for multinationals which span geographical regions and lines of business, he notes. Thats really where legal can play a big part in breaking down the silos because those different ways of working usually converge at the legal function, and so legal is seen as sort of a point of convergence.
Were looking at whether they are motivated to be commercial in their approach, that their motivations are to be in a businesscing role whereby theyre going to bring their legal skills and then add to them. If they are just looking to be focused on the legal work that theyve done to date, then perhaps the lawfirm path is better for them.
However, companies today are increasingly demanding more from their inhouse lawyers, and legal teams have been playing more and more of an active role within their companies businesses.
This means not just spelling out what the law says, but also taking a close look at the business and current situation, and then providing holistic advice, she explains.
You need to know all of this, but sometimes theres a little bit too much focus on the technical parts and not on the commercial side of things, so I would definitely advise people to understand the business, understand the industry, and also stay uptodate on industry trends.
Indeed, communication skills are the main differentiator between the old world of lawyering and the new breed of lawyers, according to Chan.
They may see a particularly radical legal risk, but they are able to propose measures to mitigate these risks. It may not be purely legal position it could a communications position, or it could be a defensive strategy when it comes to public regulatory afirs where we actually engage with the regulators. So were actually talking to the regulators and working through some of these risk ctors rather than just saying that theres a risk here and we cant do it.
This new breed of lawyers actually has a seat at the le when it comes to business decisions, he adds. Businesses are now looking at the lawyers to not just give pure legal advice, but to advise based on an understanding of the business and the business model, and actually look at the details of the operation in assessing what the risk looks like.
So if somebody has that commercial mind, and is open to having their actual daily responsibilities be broader than perhaps what is on the job description, in order for a business to make full use of their talents, they are the kind of people that we want to speak to.
They are not afraid to ask questions and theyre not afraid to push back. They try to understand what the decisionmakers are thinking and that takes confidence and a knack for understanding, she explains. It means that they are constantly analysing the information. If its commercial information that they dont have much knowledge about, then it takes a lot of initiative and curiosity to understand that and get past that.
More and more companies want their lawyers to act like business partners. They dont expect lawyers to know business development, but they want someone who is able to marry the legal with business, says Lay Hoon Ng, the Singaporebased head of the legal and compliance practice at recruitment firm Michael Page.
So how can candidates show to general counsel and recruiters that they have this business skill? Generally, people with very strong skills when it comes to being business partners tend to be more confident and personable, says Ng.
Inhouse lawyers can even go beyond being just a business partner to bringing teams and iniduals together, playing a crucial role in enhancing collaboration within an organisation.
Oliver Allcock, senior manager of the legal and compliance function at Robert Walters, based in Hong Kong
Traditionally, inhouse lawyers used to act like external counsel providing legal advice, but not much more while sitting within the company instead of at a law firm.
Darrell Chan, the deputy general counsel of online hospitality marketplace Airbnb, says that inhouse lawyers of the past used to operate within their own silo, and be quite reactive.
The legal function is involved in pretty much every part of the company, Chan adds. Today youre seeing a much tighter partnership between the legal function and government and regulatory afirs, corporate communications, and finance. And between all these different teams, you see a close sense of cohesion as they work together in order to make sure that a lot of the projects are driven forward.
But now we are looking at a new breed of lawyers who do what I call guerrilla lawyering they are in the trenches with the operations and commercial teams, and they even have a say in the business side, where they discuss some of the commercial risks related to deal negotiations, he says.
This new, broader role of inhouse lawyers is also what Oliver Allcock, senior manager of the legal and compliance function at recruitment firm Robert Walters in Hong Kong, has been seeing.
And with this expansion in their role and responsibilities, the skills demanded from potential inhouse counsel by both employers and recruiters are changing as well.
The traditional lawyers tend to be very lengthy in their communication they dont really get to the point and they tend to be a lot more conservative, he says. Whereas the new breed of lawyers tend to be a lot more robust and rounded in their assessment.
One of the skills most in demand is business acumen, as legal counsel are expected to do more than just give advice based on the letter of the law.
Companies today increasingly expect their inhouse lawyers to play a bigger role on the business side, and as a result, the skills required from potential hires are evolving as well.
I hope to see more lawyers being interested in the business side of things rather than just being very concerned about the technicalities of the law.
A lot of times, management asks that lawyers drive initiatives, in the sense that we play a role in actively moving projects forward by effecting coordination between different stakeholders, he explains.
Dont forget that when you are a lawyer, the focus is on the law. Keeping fully uptodate on the regulations and the law is obviously the most basic expectation from a lawyer.
Lay Hoon Ng, head of legal and compliance practice at Michael Page, based in Singapore