@alt@1338@alt@Happy New Year, in-house counsel friends! I hope that you have had enjoyed restful, fun-filled holidays and are as excited as I am about the professional challenges and opportunities ahead in 2017. Rather than a normal column of my own opinions, I thought I might share words of advice and inspiration from some of my general counsel friends with you this month to guide you in the new year:

“The New Year is a great time to recommit yourself to simple yet important goals. A goal my team and I try to stay focused on throughout the year is to “Do What You Say You Are Going To Do – When You Say You Are Going To Do It!” If you keep strategic priorities (yours and your clients’) at the center of everything you do, this can be easy to achieve. If you let yourself get distracted by work that is not important to strategic objectives this can be very challenging.”

Jodi J. Caro
General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
Ulta Beauty

“There are some rough waters ahead so be prepared. Have business continuity and crisis communications plans up-to-date, handy and ready.” 

Oscar E. Romero
General Counsel & Secretary – CFNA
Bridgestone Americas 

“Embrace disruption as a path to creative inspiration!”

Sloane Perras
Chief Legal Officer
The Krystal Company

“It’s all about the relationship, truly it is.  The people you help, coach, mentor, confide in or seek assistance from will form a strong web that will support you when you need it. I have just found myself back in New York after a 16-year hiatus, and I am humbled by all of the “old” friends and colleagues who have reached out to welcome me home and to offer insights and assistance.  I am relying on that wonderful web and plan to expand it further and to link it to other webs so that I can help others.”

Elisa D. Garcia
Chief Legal Officer
Macy’s, Inc.

“Even if you are a specialist and only work in a targeted area of your company take the time and initiative to learn how the business as a whole makes money and how it funds its operations and look for the opportunity to do a project outside your comfort area.”

Robert S. Lavet
General Counsel
Social Finance, Inc.

“Explore alternative fee arrangements and how they can help you meet your legal budget goals.  While they may not yet be the predominant fee arrangement, alternative fees (fixed fees, fees-per-stage, etc.) are becoming more commonplace, and it’s worth opening up the discussion with your law firms.”

Alice L. Geene
General Counsel
Rewards Network

“Depending on your focus, I enjoy the start of a new year as an opportunity to meet with my legal team and say ‘in one year from now what are three things we want to have accomplished?’  They have to be tangible deliverables that we can provide to the business.  It may just be as simple as formally evaluate our outside counsel and provide feedback to improve our relationships, or time-consuming as developing a new contracting playbook for the sales team.  These three serve as our guidepost for where we should be spending our time in 2017.  When in doubt, look at the big 3.”

Lea Ann King
General Counsel
Toyota Material Handling USA, Inc.

“Challenge yourself to make an investment in your business teams, and they will surely make an investment in you.  You will know that your efforts were successful when you are viewed as a business person that happens to be a lawyer – and not – a lawyer that happens to be working in a business.”   

Brandon B. Smith
Vice President and Deputy General Counsel
Tenneco Inc.

“Love what you do and make sure it aligns with your purpose in life!  After that, seek to learn as much as you can, so you can master your skill set! Always remember, you are at your best, when you are being exactly who you are! Be You and Be Purposeful!”

Angelique Strong Marks
General Counsel & Corporate Secretary
(FNL)
MAHLE Industries, Incorporated

My own overarching advice to you this year is to invest in yourself and your career. Take the time to think and be strategic about your career path and what you want to accomplish instead of just reacting to what happens to you. Assess the resources at your disposal and determine how you can begin to use or better utilize them to help you achieve what you want to achieve in 2017 and beyond.

One of these potential resources is an executive coach. Do you have one? Do you need one? How can an executive coach help you at this stage of your career and how do you find one? I’ll be doing a deep dive on this topic in next month’s column. Until then, stay warm, stay focused, “be you and be prosperous”!

“Real Talk” is a monthly column focusing on career-development issues for in-house counsel. Sonya Som is a partner in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s Chicago office and focuses on strategizing and leading networking, business development and marketing initiatives for our In-House Practice Group team throughout the Midwest. You can follow her on Twitter @sonyaoldssom or connect with her via LinkedIn. Contact her at ssom@mlaglobal.com with feedback, questions or column ideas.