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Make 2016 your banner year

Twelve months ago, when I wrote my first article for Canadian Lawyer InHouse, I questioned how much information/advice or support I could give to other fellow in-house counsel. No one is perfect and my career was in many ways still in its early stages of development. Nevertheless, I welcomed the opportunity to stand on this wonderful soapbox and communicate to each one of you several simple messages.

Here is a recap of some of those messages from the past year:

1) We as in-house counsel must learn to embrace and work effectively with new technology. Long gone are the days of taking a trip down to the Great Library at the law society to look for that one critical precedent. Moreover, with technology we are able to effectively and efficiently leverage the services and collaboration of professionals and colleagues around the world. Embrace and master this change.

2) Consider becoming a mentor/leader within your community. Over the last year I have had the pleasure of attending spectacular events put on by the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Portuguese Canadian Lawyers Association, the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association, the South Asian Bar Association, Roundtable of Diversity Associations, and many, many others.

I have had the honour and privilege of meeting legal leaders from all of these communities. These professionals are not only a source of pride and an agent of change within their communities, but also within our profession and our province and country. Get to know, learn from, and replicate the actions of these leaders.

3) Be your own cheerleader. Make sure your employer knows the critical function you and your department performs within the organization. Do not be afraid to advertise your triumphs and let people know why the legal department is a critical business partner.

Also, make sure your work is noticed and acknowledged by others. Ask colleagues, external counsel and peers to nominate you for awards and recognition celebrating your achievements. There are many wonderful awards out there, such as the Innovatio Awards, Canadian General Counsel Awards, and the Lexpert Rising Stars. Make sure you are considered as the receipt of such an award which can have a significant impact on your career.

4) As it is commonly said, you miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take. Whether it is applying for that dream job that seems just beyond reach, making that contact that will help advance your career or just generally making your supervisor know you are ready and able to take on the next assignment or promotion, be confident, strategic and don’t be shy or hold back. If you don’t demonstrate drive and initiative, positive change is unlikely to happen.

5) It is never easy, but try to find the appropriate balance between work life, family/home life, and time for community work. These are all very important elements of a well-rounded, healthy, sustainable career. Sacrificing one element for another is unlikely to result in an optimal career outcome.

Work hard, play hard and never forget to appreciate what you have and the importance of where you are today and the sacrifice it took to get there.  

6) Always seek to find ways to better yourself. Whether you do this by completing a part-time MBA, taking a program like the Business Leadership Program for In-House Counsel or the Osgoode Leadership and Business Academy for Corporate Counsel, by attending the numerous CPD courses offered by the bar associations and law societies, or by speaking or attending conferences, always remember, the more you put into your career the more it will provide for you in the short and long term.

Finally, and in many ways most importantly, always network.

2015 has been a banner year for me. I was awarded the “Tomorrow’s Leader” award by the Canadian General Counsel Awards, I was named one of the “10 Most Influential Hispanic Canadians,” and I was able to develop many new contacts and attend many spectacular events and conferences hosted by the numerous communities and associations that bring, life, colour, and vibrancy to our profession and our cities, provinces and country.

I have achieved these great objectives and achievements by putting into practice the points discussed above and working hard to be the best in-house counsel that I can be. There is no magic or trick that will work for all, but I do hope the articles throughout the year and the tips above will help make 2016 your banner year.

I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.