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The Art of Staying Connected When Transitioning To An In-House Role

Posted On:Monday, August 01, 2011

On July 19, Zelle Hofmann's Boston office, in conjunction with the Women's Bar Association (WBA), hosted an informative panel discussion titled "Staying Connected When You Go In-House." The hour-long program explored various strategies for networking when transitioning into an in-house role and was attended by both current in-house practitioners and those seeking in-house employment.

The discussion, which was moderated by Zelle Hofmann associate, Kristin Heres, featured three seasoned in-house attorneys, all of whom moved in-house after practicing at major Boston-area firms. Offering their insights were panelists Judith Malone, General Counsel for Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts; Amy Mendel, former Associate General Counsel, IP and Licensing, at Clinical Data, Inc.; and Jacqueline Taylor, Senior Counsel, Technology, at Staples, Inc.

The panelists began by highlighting some of the major differences between law firm practice and in-house practice. For instance, they observed that in an in-house setting, the focus of networking is not on winning the business of a variety of clients, but on providing a high level of service to your only client: the corporation or institution. Because in-house counsel are generally few in number (as compared with the number of lawyers in a firm), it is particularly important to create and maintain a network of outside lawyers with whom you can discuss ideas and from whom you can seek advice. To stay connected with other counsel, the panelists recommended staying involved in bar associations, industry groups, and alumni associations. Since many in-house positions are located outside of downtown Boston, the panelists offered helpful tips on how to stay in touch with downtown contacts, such as using visits to downtown, outside counsel as an opportunity to set up breakfast or coffee with former colleagues.

One of the highlights of the discussion was the role of on-line social media in modern networking. While some panelists opined that in-person contact is the best and most effective form of networking, there was general agreement that on-line interactions are critical to building a successful network. They cautioned however, that social networking sites like Facebook can be a double-edged sword when seeking employment. Job hunters are best served by making sure their on-line presence does not include information or images that may deter potential employers. Both the panelists' comments and questions from the attendees indicated that LinkedIn continues to be a powerful networking tool both for those who are currently in-house and those seeking in-house positions.

The panel discussion was followed by a wine and cheese reception where attendees mingled with WBA board members and put the networking tools discussed during the program to immediate use. The program was generously sponsored by Zelle Hofmann's Diversity Committee, which is committed to growing the firm's alliance with the WBA and other organizations that support the issues and goals of attorneys from diverse backgrounds.