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In-house Access Insight & Commentary for In-House Counsel Worldwide

Collaborate, Plan, Work Smart and Get Noticed

Posted in Career

We’ve all heard the advice given to in-house counsel: Learn the business; create value; earn a seat at the table. It’s tried and true, but nothing new. What other suggestions exist for making positive differences in your businesses? In a unique session at ACC’s first Corporate Counsel Institute Canada, Ken Fredeen, GC of Deloitte Canada, offered some of his ideas: Collaborate, plan, work smart and get noticed.

Fredeen’s session focused on strategic planning and demonstrating success. For the mostly new-to-in-house audience, it was one of the last sessions of the two-day conference. And although attendees were beginning to (mentally) check out, Fredeen’s creative approach commanded their full attention.

“You work for me now,” he told his audience. “You’re all in my group, and I’ve asked you to do a strategic planning exercise.”

In an impromptu collaborative effort, they were split up and assigned to four easels around the room. Together, they brainstormed answers for the categories:  

  • What do we do?;
  • Why do we have a law department?;
  • Building GC eminence; and
  • Cost solutions.

When time was up, Fredeen opened a dialogue.

Answers to “What do we do?” — contracts, risk management, IP, HR, etc. — became an outline for the pretend department’s strategic plan. Answers to “Why do we have a law department?” informed Fredeen of his new department’s expectations for him. “Building GC eminence,” helped group members consider ways to foster their own professional growth, and “cost solutions” offered new approaches that could only come from collaborative thinking.

Fredeen went through the details, but focused on the value of the strategic planning process that the group had just experienced. “This exercise gets everyone in the room, so they come up with the plan together,” he said. “Then they can own each part of it, deliver on it, and be held accountable for it.”

Fredeen went on to explain that the strategic plan gives him the opportunity to put softer, but still important issues on the table. During the exercise he added “community” to the “What do we do?” list and said, “If you work for me, you have to participate in your community. It’s our responsibility as lawyers.”

Fredeen said community involvement helps promote work/life balance, which is essential for him to maintain a committed staff. “Some think a lawyer who works 150 percent of his or her time is an engaged employee. I say that’s an employee who is going to burn out.” Fredeen said that one of the advantages of working in-house is being able to give his staff opportunities to balance their lives in a more customized way. “If you do that, you’ll be successful, because people will be hugely engaged and deliver great client service.”

Lastly, Fredeen encouraged the audience to be their own advocates — success won’t matter unless people know about it and can apply it to a broader context. “It doesn’t always feel easy, but you have to keep telling people what you’re doing and what you’ve achieved,” he said. Then he wrote down “marketplace,” adding that counsel should get exposure outside of their offices, too. “As a good example, get involved in ACC. Represent the corporate law profession. That’s one way to build eminence, too.”

For more information on getting involved with ACC, visit the Community page.