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An Inhouse Counsel’s View on Your Career and Who You Are?

Inhouse counsel may occasionally have the appearance of having life easy, particularly compared to the Big Law jobs that sap energy and soak up every second of the day with world-beating deals and mind-twisting litigation.  So what is the perspective on making yourself a top lawyer so that you not only enjoy your job but make yourself the  best person you can.

Josh Beser wrote the following about his “story”.  He’s iAssistant General Counsel at Lonza, a global leader in life sciences and specialty ingredients with over 10,000 employees worldwide.  But in a previous story he was an associate at Bingham McCutchen LLP and Heller Ehrman LLP, representing emerging companies in the technology and life sciences industries.

From JD Supra:

“Invest in lines, not dots,” goes the venture capitalist’s mantra. Put another way, invest in stories, not snapshots. Who you are right now – as a person or as a company – is the result of the experiences that brought you to that place. The lines connect each milestone or important event in the story, and the upward trajectory you see in great lines make the best investment opportunities. That is, they’re all dots.

This holds true for individuals, too. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, the most important question you have to answer is, “What’s your story?” Your story, not your goals, not your greatest strength or weakness or why a tennis ball is fuzzy. It’s your story. And it’s up to you to make it great.

What makes your story great? Great stories are made with great dots, and great dots come from breakout opportunities. As LinkedIn founder (and venture capitalist, it should be noted) Reid Hoffman writes, “our professional lives are not a sequence of equally important jobs. There are always breakout projects, connections, specific experiences, and yes, strokes of luck—that lead to unusually rapid career growth.”

Think about it from the listener’s perspective. What’s compelling about you, and what will form the story in his or her mind? I hope it isn’t the merger agreement you slogged through on Tuesday morning, or the sales presentation you made in Denver two weeks ago. They could have been incredible (as far as these things can be incredible), but they shouldn’t be your narrative.

Breakout opportunities tell the story of why are you different from everyone else who does your job.

For example, when I worked in Big Law, many of my best experiences – and the ones that shape my story of professional growth from that time – all directly relate to doing something different from the typical law firm associate career path. I sought out opportunities to move to different offices (from San Diego, to New York, to London and back), through which I worked on deals all over the world and met great lawyers and clients, many of whom are still important to my career.

Later, I was awarded a fellowship to help build a 1000-lawyer firm’s transactional pro bono program, where among other things I worked with an office-wide team to set up a legal clinic at Start Small Think Big, a fantastic non-profit in the Bronx.; Everyone knows what the “regular work” of a law firm associate looks like, more or less, and they probably don’t care about the parts they don’t know.

I tell every law firm associate I meet to make the most of every opportunity that deviates from the standard associate track. It’s these opportunities that shape the story I tell about that part of my career. What shapes yours?

How do you find breakout opportunities?

First, you have to be very good at what you do, whatever that is and wherever you are in your career. No shortcut here. What you do every day absolutely matters, even if it is not the story itself; as Cal Newport notes, deliberate and thoughtful effort to create great work provides currency for breakout opportunities.

I’m reminded of an interview I heard recently with Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday, where Holiday, a master marketer with an interesting reputation says, “the best way to sell a book is to write a really good book.” For our purposes, you’re the book — the best way to get great opportunities is to work hard continually at making yourself great.

Read more at JDSupra

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