Legal Law

Taking And Displaying Initiative: More and more Essential Expertise For In-Home Management

“You have an impressive resume …” said Judge Noonan of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, his gaze fixated on the piece of paper, sliding down the page in what felt like slow motion.

What was I thinking, detailing just about EVERY achievement since birth?!

He continued going line-by-line through my resume, painstakingly s-l-o-w-l-y.

S-L-O-W-L-Y. . .

Slowly enough for me to admire his historic chambers, notice the woodcutting on his antique mahogany furniture, and approximate (and then actually count!) his numerous leather-bound books.

He was still in the preamble.

What was I thinking?!

More complimenting.

I am making this now-centenarian (he was only 80 at the time!) suffer through my 8.3 font (and 6.1 spacing!).

I no longer felt clever …

The steady flow of (very slow!) compliments continued.

I was at the edge of my seat.

He was ONLY about one third through page 1.

“Judge Noonan, if you like me so much, why don’t you give me an offer on the spot?” I blurted out and regretted it immediately.

What kind of desperate person (let alone future lawyer!) says this to an esteemed federal appellate judge?! Who did I think I was?

Judge Noonan lifted his head (very slowly!), smiled knowingly, and said, “If you want it so much, the job is yours.”

I got lucky that day, to be sure. Judge Noonan was open to my hijinks and had a playful side himself. But I learned a valuable lesson that day: it turns out that the future belongs to the doers and builders. It belongs to those who demonstrate initiative and then take steps to make them come true and have an impact. And then once you’re in a position to show that impact — when you’re in Judge Noonan’s chambers with your resume in his hand — you just need to make your power felt.

Today, as the legal field is crowded with talent and extraordinary capabilities, it is more important than ever to show your own ability to take initiative and following through with actions.

But this is especially true for in-house legal positions. Fortunately, there are endless ways to do it.

Focus On Impacting The Outside In The World Or Your Industry

For example, I recently spoke to Simon Zinger about the General Counsel Oath. He explained that following the global pandemic and developments in the United States, it is clear that many companies struggle with, among other things, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The General Oath is a tool for the legal leaders to lead the change and move in the right direction. It encourages legal leaders to lead, highlight small wins, and celebrate progress.

Also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

Embrace The Internal Opportunities To Impact Operations And The Bottom Line

Other times, showing initiative internally is effective. In talking with Lourdes Fuentes Slater, it became apparent that in-house lawyers can take initiative, make progress, and have a significant impact on digital transformation. Redefining a modern legal department is a real opportunity. Legal technology is no longer an option, it’s a necessity. Companies are often hesitant to implement innovation, but more and more, that hesitation will create unnecessary roadblocks to success. Take the chance to do so.

Also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

Pursue Unconventional Adventures In And Out Of Law

Why limit your initiatives to law? Heather Stevenson first ran a business and then found her way back to law. When she returned, she did so with a more rounded point of view and was thus able to create a broader impact. It is hard to find the courage to stray from the traditional legal career path, but there are numerous and unpredictable rewards available to those who make atypical choices, especially in the legal field.

Also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.

Where there’s an opportunity for innovation and growth, there’s an opportunity to take initiative. This is true in all walks of life, but especially in a field like law that is constantly seeing fundamental changes.

I encourage you to learn a new skill, bring it to your workplace, and make an impact. Doing so will not only improve your current environment and make a real difference in real time, but it’ll show future employers and bosses that you are willing to take initiative and leave a positive change in your wake. That’s a timeless skill.

Olga V. Mack is the CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat and Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security. You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.

Related Articles