Making Adjustments

Defining myself as a "writer" is something I've done since I was young. From the day I read my first finished poem--a 10-line masterpiece, in my opinion, about then-teen idol Kirk Cameron--I knew I had found my calling. I was going to be a writer. But what type of writer was still to be determined.

It didn't take me long to realize poetry wasn't my forte--although I was intrigued by the eccentricity of e.e. cummings and the tragedy of Sylvia Plath. And while Roald Dahl quickly found his way into my heart, trying my hand at short-story writing resulted in a D on an English assignment. That left me with novels--but the thought of writing an extended version of the much-loathed Dahl-esque piece made me shudder.

In journalism, however, I found the perfect outlet for providing meaningful content to inquisitive readers in an intelligent and creative way. For years, I strived to be a good journalist--working at several magazines covering a range of topics. But when I landed at Corporate Legal Times (now InsideCounsel) in 2003, I found myself facing a challenge. I was used to covering topics with which I was unfamiliar, but I hadn't encountered issues as oft-esoteric as those confronting the in-house bar. To my surprise, covering those issues turned out to be as much about understanding business as it was about understanding law. Several years later, in an effort to become a better journalist, I decided to go back to school and obtain an MBA. The more I understood the inner-workings of business, the better business journalist I would be.

A similar challenge confronts many in-house counsel today--the need to supplement their expertise in the law with an in-depth understanding of business principles. As the economy continues to struggle, in-house counsel are confronting more complex legal issues. As a result, they often need to take on more than their traditional "adviser" roles--becoming increasingly involved in the business side of the company.

In this month's cover story ("Step Up"), contributing writer Steven Andersen takes a look at how some savvy in-house counsel are tackling the increasing challenges they face in a difficult economy--and how others may need to sharpen their business skills to be the best they can be in today's economic environment.

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