Repeat after me: “Know how your business and industry operates, in detail!”

A session at the most recent SuperConference concerned what inside lawyers need to know about the business of the company they support. Marti Wronski, General Counsel of the Milwaukee Brewers, made the interesting point that ambitious lawyers shouldn’t “wish for too much too soon,” in part because the higher you rise, the more you are expected to understand intimately how the business works. If you haven’t learned enough business, you won’t be ready. At the level of general counsel, that person serves as an executive of the company, expected to be fully conversant with the full span of business issues that arise and decisions that need to be made.

For that reason, Karen Wishart, the Chief Legal Officer of TV One, invested in an executive MBA program, “which made a huge difference in my career.” Wronski mentioned that she reads all the baseball trade journals so that the accusation “You don’t understand how we do things,” strikes out.

Probably no data is available on professional development training taken by inside lawyers that is oriented toward substantive legal topics as compared to business-related topics. If we had that data, I am sure it skews heavily toward legal updates and practice tips, not how to understand the flow of cash in your company.

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