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My next move: How do I demonstrate and develop commerciality when seeking an in-house role?

My next move: How do I demonstrate and develop commerciality when seeking an in-house role?

Many businesses have the same key requirement when looking to fill an in-house legal role; and that is to find a lawyer with ‘commerciality’, who understands the needs of the business and is able to provide advice that balances these needs and the associated legal framework.

A question we are often asked is how to best develop these skills and how to provide evidence of this ability to a potential employer.

Creative solutions clients want lawyers who can provide solutions to a problem rather than a roadblock to the development of the business. Those in-house lawyers of most value will be able to analyse the issue and propose a way forward that best fits both the commercial and legal requirements, and articulate why and how it will benefit the business. This experience can be more difficult to express in a resume but it is worth thinking of strong examples of this type of approach, and the tangible results gained, so that you can describe them at interview. You can also consider using an internal client (or external if in private practice) as a referee who can vouch for the creativity and effectiveness of the solutions you have provided.

Get involved – if you are in-house already then it’s important that you get to understand the business, and the key decision makers in the business units that you support, as well as possible. This will allow you to provide relevant commercial advice and allow you to become a trusted advisor to the business. In turn this will make it more likely for them to involve you as early as possible in the process, which often allows the best result from a legal and commercial perspective. This can be helped by undertaking commercial secondments within the business (or in-house legal secondments if in practice), gaining a place on company steering/advisory committees or management teams and attending both industry and legal networking events. Be proactive and get out there in the company, explaining what you can do to help rather than waiting for people to come to you with issues.

The required level of expertise in this area will vary depending on the seniority of the role and the structure and focus of the team. However, commerciality is a fundamental element of any in-house role so it is important to concentrate on improving these skills early in your career, alongside the development of your technical legal ability.

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