In-House Counsel: The Essential Business Advisor

Updated January 29, 2024
8 min read
In-House Counsel: The Essential Business Advisor


Too often, people ask me what it takes to get in-house legal services. It seems as though it’s a coveted society that’s difficult to tap into, but once you’re in, you usually never leave. What makes this career a dream? It’s the business side of it. I think of myself primarily as a business advisor with a legal degree who assists in making business decisions that are both legally and ethically sound. 

Immersing oneself in the business is key to being an effective in-house counsel. By understanding what do in-house lawyers do, one can anticipate and mitigate risks and devise alternative solutions. In-house lawyers play a vital role in strategically managing risks, protecting the company, and planning for the future. So, let’s dive in.

Why Does In-House Counsel Need To Partner with the Business?

In-house legal advisers bring distinct skills through training and experience, providing unbiased analysis of situations and offering long-term solutions beyond short-term fixes. By understanding the entire business operation, they contribute valuable solutions. They often provide legal and business advice due to intimate knowledge of various aspects of the business, from corporate matters to financials.

In-house counsel roles are to interact with diverse stakeholders, from CEOs to project managers, which enriches their knowledge base and decision-making. Being a lawyer is just one aspect of their role; they also engage in meaningful discussions across departments, fostering personal growth and career fulfillment. Their involvement in the business is essential not just for their personal success but also for the overall success of the organization.

Everyone has their own career goals. Personally, I love to learn and grow. I do this by listening to and understanding the points of view of all the stakeholders within the business. Sure, I am a lawyer by degree, but that is only a sliver of who I am. I am more fulfilled in my career now than I have ever been, and I can directly correlate that to being able to have meaningful discussions daily with all types of people. These people are not just lawyers but are project managers, advertisers, sales, executives, and the like. 

I am a firm believer that the more you know, the more you grow. If you sit in your office all day redlining contracts and reviewing documents, yes, you will be doing the task at hand, but you will be missing out on so many opportunities and experiences that you will only be doing yourself a disservice in the long run. So, immerse yourself in the business!

How To Immerse Yourself in the Business

Lesson number one: listen. You should listen to everyone, from the interns to the CEO. You need to understand people’s obstacles, pain points, and successes, which will help to connect the dots to the big picture. Then, when an issue presents itself, you won’t be surprised and can hit the ground running on finding solutions. 

Second, attend meetings with the attitude of how the discussion today can help propel the business to move forward next month, next year, and so on. If you want to learn more about what a specific department does, ask to attend a reoccurring in-house legal department meeting.  If you want to understand customer concerns, attend customer calls, or at the very least, attend internal meetings. 

I can’t emphasize this enough: the better you understand the business, the better business advisor you will be. Here’s a list of a few things in-house counsels should learn about: 

  • The products and services the company provides.

  • How the products and services are created.

  • The trends and competitors in the market.

  • The financials.

  • The crucial risks, policies, and procedures.

  • The company’s main priorities are short-term and long-term goals.

There is always an opportunity to learn. You just need to seek out various ways to do so. So, let’s see where you can start.

How To Acquire the Necessary Business Skills

Some in-house counsels already come into a company with essential business skills — whether they learned them in undergrad or through prior work experience before law school.  However, it’s always good to maintain these skills. 

Here are a few suggestions for in-house counsel roles on how to acquire and maintain their business skills to become effective, well-rounded in-house counsel. 

  • First, some skills acquired in law school will be the groundwork for your success. The ability to analyze a complex situation, spot the facts and issues, and clearly communicate the analysis will be immensely valuable because you will be able to articulate the risks to enhance the company’s goals. 

  • Second, build an internal and external network of contacts that will assist you in providing well-rounded advice. The internal network can come from various departments within the company — from development to sales to human resources. Meanwhile, the external network will come from outside counsel to various other in-house counsels from other companies. The more you learn from all the contacts, the more effective you will be. 

  • Last but certainly not least, enhance your skillset through various certifications and additional business courses. This will allow you to grow into a better in-house counsel business partner and advise the company.


To sum up, being an in-house counsel can be highly beneficial and rewarding if you know your way around, learn everything there is to know about the business and people who operate it, and don’t shy away from using the skills you already have as a base to build upon. A noteworthy strategy includes setting smart goals for in-house lawyers examples, which can guide your learning and growth.

Remember: the more you know about the company, the better business advisor you will be! There are so many things to know. I am still learning every day. But at the end of the day, it is the most rewarding, happy, and fulfilled I have ever felt in my career. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Article by Brittany Leonard