BERKELEY, Calif. — Those who learn, lead. I not only like the sound of this phrase, I think it’s true. And it was also the predominant theme at the recent UC Berkeley General Counsel Institute, which shone a light on how in-house lawyers are learning to lead.
The Institute, co-sponsored by the Berkeley Center for Law and Business and PEER 150, was an immersive two-day program of lectures and workshops, each session taught by a UC Berkeley professor or legal department chief legal officer or general counsel. The sessions ranged from hot-button topics — blockchain, unconscious bias, AI, the government regulatory landscape, and the evolution of corporate responsibility — to the science of negotiations and the importance of soft skills.
Then there were the lectures from three of the most respected legal department chiefs in Silicon Valley — Mark Chandler of Cisco, Louise Pentland of PayPal, and Dorian Daley of Oracle. Their sessions differed in emphasis, but together, they formed a primer for those lawyers aspiring to become CLOs or reach other leadership roles. Here are three key takeaways on how to prepare to lead like the best:1. Know the Numbers
The CLO is not only the go-to legal brain trust of the CEO and the board of directors, but she is also their strategic business partner. The latter role requires a deep understanding of the company’s business and a tolerance for calculated risk-taking. To succeed, the CLO must possess the mindset of a business executive with a legal degree.
The CLO creates the culture of the legal department. A foundational question in this ongoing process is to ask and answer the “why” question: “Why does the legal department exist?” Today, most legal departments have, as a stated purpose, the task of adding measurable value to the enterprise. Chandler noted that Cisco’s legal department mantra is illustrative of his point: “[The legal department at Cisco] exists to make sure that in a legally appropriate way, we deliver value to our clients.”
The CLO has the responsibility to answer the why of her department. She is also the captain of that journey. But little progress will be made without the full commitment of the people on the team. As Oracle’s Daley underscored in her comments, it’s the people part that the CLO needs to understand, know, and care about.
What is missing from these three takeaways is perhaps the most fundamental factor in being a great leader — who you are as a person. Sitting in the audience at each of their lectures, it was clear to me that Daley, Chandler, and Pentland are human beings with a strong moral compass, an insatiable desire to learn, an arms-full capacity for compassion, and an unceasing drive to excel.
You had to be there to feel it, and those who attended did, and they walked away understanding why these three legal chiefs are icons within the legal industry. It is because of who they are that makes them the kind of people you want to follow.
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