The tyranny of firefighting, and how to break out of the reactive role (Part 1)

If you don’t find a way to bring about change in a way that feels comfortable for you, nothing will change.

In my experience, it is the rare C-suite executive who sees lawyers as a valuable, strategic business partner. If we’re honest with ourselves, we are seen as “necessary,” but not necessarily desirable. We are overhead, and we tend to be expensive — even if we still cost less than the alternative of outsourcing to a law firm or haphazard risk management.

As a result, all too often there is enterprise inertia to keep lawyers in a box — in-house lawyers are utilized when something bad happens or when discreet advice is needed, but there is no need for day-to-day involvement in business management and strategic planning/execution. That’s how in-house lawyers end up in very narrowly defined, compartmentalized roles that center around reviewing contracts or overseeing litigation or handling all labor and employment issues. But if that’s the role that we, as in-house attorneys, really wanted to play ... we could have kept working at a law firm. Let’s be honest, doing a job that isn’t quite so compartmentalized or homogenous would be a lot more fun, engaging and rewarding.

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Noelle J. Perkins

Noelle Perkins is deputy general counsel at John Bean Technologies Corp. Her practice is focused on counseling JBT’s global FoodTech Operating Segment on a wide...

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