Jennifer Greiner recently moderated a panel hosted by NALP, entitled “Soft Skills” Are the Hard Skills that GCs Require. The panel was comprised of two General Counsels: Jason Brown, U.S. VP, GC & Secretary, Dyson, Inc. and John Schultz, EVP, GC & Corporate Secretary, Hewlett-Packard Company.
Soft skills are those interpersonal skills associated with “Emotional Intelligence” and are critical attributes of successful professionals. These include communication skills, attitude, work ethic, leadership and team building skills, strategic thinking and problem solving abilities, as well as social graces.
The panelists offered their insights on the importance of soft skills, noting that these skills are essential and the key to success as both private practitioners and in-house counsel. As the panelists noted, it is assumed that both internal and external counsel have the substantive skills to provide the right answers but do they have the requisite soft skills to succeed?
Key takeaways include the following:
1. Be a “talent creator.” Lead and create other leaders who can step into your job.
2. Be a “careerist” not a “jobist.” Reignite your passion as a lawyer and view your role beyond the substantive parameters.
3. Be a skilled communicator. Attorneys need the ability to persuade others to accept their answers in a business setting.
4. Be collaborative. Connect with your colleagues. Think of your role as being a member of a family, and in it for the long term.
5. Be team oriented. When in-house, your role, in large part, is to make the business people and the GC look good, not to be the smartest person in the room.
6. Be an active listener. Concentrate on what is being said: Business people and in-house counsel need direction and information delivered differently than how provided at a law firm.
7. Be consequential. As in-house counsel, you are a cost center and therefore need to focus on bringing value to the organization; therefore, provide what they want and not what you think they need.
8. Be extremely knowledgeable about the business. Strive to learn everything you can about the company and its businesses.