Speak up // In-house counsel guide

To really make it in-house, you have to be part lawyer and part businessperson. That means you have to talk the talk

By Dawn Calleja

On Tuesday December 3rd, 2013


“One of the primary motives for going in-house is a desire to expand your contributions beyond the purely legal,” says Hugh Arnold, academic director of the Business Leadership Program for In-House Counsel at Rotman School of Management. “So become aware of jargon. When lawyers go in-house and continue to speak legalese, they reinforce the stereotype that their skills are useful in the legal sphere, but limited in the business sphere.”

Here’s a quick primer to help you speak the language and get you started on your eventual leap from legal department to c-suite.

Slang for an organization’s senior executives, so named because most titles begin with “c” — chief executive officer, chief operating officer and so on. The rock stars of the company 

Org chart
A chart laying out everyone’s job and responsibilities within an organization, and who reports to whom. Tip: the person above you is the one who can fire you

Strategic planning
A specific kind of business plan that works backwards from the end goal, outlining step-bystep what you have to do to make it happen, ending with today’s tasks. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves

360 feedback
A performance review where everyone you work with gives their input. That means your boss, subordinates and peers all get a chance to complain — er, offer constructive criticism

Shorthand for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization,” this is a metric used to compare the operational profitability of companies. This number often makes a company’s earnings seem higher

Market capitalization
A publicly traded company’s stock price multiplied by the number of shares that are traded on the stock market. Really, how much money it pulls in from its shareholders

This story is part of our in-depth guide to in-house counsel. Click here to read the next section about six in-house lawyers working as top executives.

Image by Paul Bica