Mastering management duties

Being an advocate for your staff is critical to a successful legal department.

I have never been a believer in the old cliché, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” All it really means is it isn’t personal to the person delivering the message. The person hearing it, on the other hand, is likely taking whatever news they’re hearing (layoff, cut in pay … I could go on and on) very personally.   

It’s been more than three years since I took over the position of editor-in-chief at InsideCounsel. In that time, I have had the pleasure to working with some very talented journalists. They’ve included one accomplished editor and writer with extensive experience, several fresh graduates eager to learn more about the world of publishing as well as some talented editors whose experience falls somewhere in between. My staff over these years has taught me a lot about being a manager, and they’ve made me strive to be the best manager for them that I can.

I admit, that is not always easy. Soon after I became editor-in-chief, the economy took a hard hit, and I was forced to place more demands on my team. Tighter budgets and smaller staff meant asking for a lot more without being able to give any more in return. As a novice to the management world, this was an enormous source of stress for me, particularly when I found myself thinking, “It’s not personal, it’s business.” I remember asking myself at the time, “Am I really cut out for this?” Looking back now, I realize it was an extremely valuable learning experience. It forced me to really appreciate the position my company was in as well as the demands I was placing on my team. Although we’re in a better place now, I’m still learning from the experience—specifically, how to respect my staff and value their time while we get our jobs done and do what is best for the business. 

At this year’s InsideCounsel SuperConference, I had the honor of moderating one of the breakout session panels. In “Becoming a Better Advocate for Your Stretched Legal Department,” two general counsel—Janice Block, GC of Kaplan Higher Education, and Alan Tse, GC of Churchill Downs—discussed how this very idea applies within the legal department setting (see “The 11th annual SuperConference”). Block and Tse say advocating for your staff and ensuring they are satisfied in their work, while always keeping the client top of mind, is critical to a successful legal department.

I don’t expect I will ever master management, but I will always strive to be the best manager I can be for my team and my company. It’s a rule we can all live by.

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