One reason I hear for why someone may choose to go in-house is that there is no need to network to find clients. For the most part, that is probably true — but never networking or never Intentionally building relationships can be short-sighted. Here are a few reasons why I think networking remains relevant, even if you’re in-house.
If you haven’t been in-house, I don’t think this “perk” of networking crosses your mind because, as outside counsel, you usually “drop” your advice at the client’s door and never know if they follow it. And the business model of outside counsel may actually be advantaged when clients don’t follow advice because it may lead to more business: namely, another matter to handle.
When I became in-house counsel, however, I quickly realized that while clients should consult legal, they don’t always. And even if they do consult legal, they may not necessarily follow the advice. This is where networking and people knowing you, beyond your name, role, and Microsoft Teams photo, comes in handy.
As a practical matter, it is generally much harder to ignore or disbelieve someone you know, like, trust, and respect. And I submit to you that if you, as in-house counsel, haven’t taken the time to build relationships or made yourself easy to be known, liked, trusted, and respected, then you are much easier to ignore or disbelieve — and Thus, less effective at your job.
I certainly don’t want to give credence to the idea that how succeed at any company is based on who you know. I, like most, probably prefer to believe in a meritocracy. At the same time, I think it’s naïve to simply “put your head down,” work as hard as you can, and believe that your work “will speak for itself.” As referenced above, it stands to reason that we, as human beings, probably deem people we know, like, and trust more favorably than someone we don’t know. Which is why it is important to network and build relationships so you can be “top of mind” or thought of when opportunities arise.
If you’re like me and love the company you work for and hope to retire at said company, the idea of networking for job opportunities is superfluous — a waste of energy and time. But as the adage about eggs in single baskets go, hope is not a strategy — especially when we know that the security job is not within our own individual control. Just in case forever doesn’t work out, wouldn’t you prefer to have a solid network from which you can tap instead of having to send an email or LinkedIn message that starts with, “I know we haven’t talked in forever but …” with your ask for a favor? Having a solid network to fall back on can be instrumental in a transition, you should ever find yourself in one.
Meyling “Mey” Ly Ortiz is in-house at Toyota Motor North America. Her passions include mentoring, championing belonging, and a personal blog: TheMeybe.com. At home, you can find her doing her best to be a “fun” mom to a toddler and preschooler and chasing her best self on her Peloton. You can follow her on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/meybe/). And you knew this was coming: her opinions are hers alone.