For readers, know that that this session in the Leadership Institute series was done by former lawyers (who are now executives) for the benefit of upcoming lawyers, but my hope sharing them is insight to the legal world and some the things said are just in general for leadership and management skills regardless of industry.

What this Session was All About

This leadership session happened over a month ago and was of great interest to me, as all of the panelists included attorneys who had gone over and obtained some sort executive position at a large local corporation. It was very interesting hearing how they made the transition from attorney to corporate executive. For the most part, many of them did NOT plan on it, and many of them thought they would practice law for the rest of their lives. I will be breaking up this write-up into two posts.  Today’s post will cover the morning discussion and the following one will be for the afternoon session.  The morning was a set of panelists that were moderated and the afternoon was a speed dating type of deal.

I will give a list of the panelists, then list the series of questions asked by the moderator, under each question I will select several quotes or paraphrased thoughts that I thought was interesting or poignant to share with you all.  The panelist that provided the quote or thought will be identified through their initials. Remember the underlying theme is leadership, but for this session it seemed directed at the path of experiences toward leadership.

The Panelists and Moderator

So here is the list of the morning panelists, their titles, and companies:

They were moderated by Melissa Pavlicek, President of Hawaii Public Policy Advocates.

The Questions and Quotes

How do you identify yourself? What is the first thing you say?

  • AO – “Once a lawyer, always a lawyer.”
  • CN – stated she is first a banker, but being a lawyer usually quickly follows
  • MR – introduces himself as the CAO
  • CM – hated being a lawyer for the first 10 years (laughter), but by the time he left practice he enjoyed it

How much of where you are today was planned?

  • FK – none of it was planned, it took an intervention from a friend to change her mind for her career path, and things never turn out the way you expect
  • MR – no planning, he was open to anything and his advice to everyone is to take advantage of opportunities, but be prepared when you do
  • AO – as a generation, the Vietnam War colored his, so planning for him was out of the equation – he feels that his generation did not have the luxury of life choices early on due to the war
  • CM – you don’t plan it so much as “create the opportunities for lightning to strike you”

In terms of skills, do you improve what you are given? Or do you try getting new skills?

  • MR – start with values, and you should be true to yourself; in general, some things you have to learn, but you should also focus on your natural talents; “know the landscape” and be ready to adapt – his personal example, was when he came here for the CAO job, he knew was a “guest” and went out of his way to understand an appreciated the local way of doing things

What skills are valuable?

  • [I can’t remember who said this, but here it is anyway]: legal analytical skills were critical beginning, but leadership skills become more important (due to responsibilities) ; thus as a lawyer we tend to micromanage, but as you transit into a leadership/management it is about empowering others to do the tasks
  • AO – since not every lawyer is a complete package, if you build a lawyer firm you try to complete the package and have complimenting attorneys – but you do want listeners, they understand what the client wants to get (objective-based); if you answer a client’s question with legal answers, many times it is not helpful

What about Outside Activities?

  • In general, all of them are active diverse people. I think the main thing to have gotten out of this part of the moderation was to find some clubs, non-profits, or associations and help out. It is good for networking and actually provides a different kind out outlet for your energies.

This is the last one, there is more, but I thought this question would be a good stopping point for this blog (lol): Are lawyers deal killers? How should lawyers handle saying “no” to clients?

  • AO – not a deal killer, but to new attorneys learn a little bit of litigation to figure out alternatives to trial
  • CN – they are more ready to say “no” early on to things, but risk is a part of business; in-house counsel understands the business better  and can help manage risk better
  • FK – as CEO, she aggress it is managing the risk of the company, so when you, as an attorney are being asked for answer, you have to determine what kind of answer is being asked for (i.e. is this it might be right 50% answer, this is mostly right 80%, or we spent all day and night researching this,100% answer); put another way, how much risk is embed in the question; an attorney’s job is to work with the client
  • MR – sometimes you do have to say NO due to risk identification, BUT the attorney then should direct the client with advice and help to reach a decision in light of that response

Anyway, I hope this was interesting I will be following this write-up hopefully within a week to reach the afternoon session panelists and interesting things I learned there. Finally, some great conversations took place during lunch that sparked off some interesting commentary, and I would like to bring that to you all and get your feedback and sentiments on the issue.

So check back soon!

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