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Building your resilience, reputation and personal networks

‘Get comfortable with being uncomfortable’

Building your resilience, reputation and personal networks was the fourth webinar of our 2021 series in association with Thomson Reuters.

And that it attracted a record attendance highlighted how important personal wellbeing and mental health have become in recent years.

Resilience, reputation and personal networks are great foundations on which to build your career. They’re also vital foundations for your mental health.  

Joining regular moderators Anthony Inglese and Paul Bentall were two General Counsel who spoke on these themes from long – and often moving – experience.

Angus Haig is Senior Vice President and General Counsel at US-based Cox Automotive, owner of several global businesses including Kelley Blue Book and Autotrader.com. His career as an in-house lawyer has also included a 19-year spell at Coca-Cola, during which time he served the company in numerous locations. Angus has been based Australia, China, Japan and the UK. He’s a board member of the International Dyslexia Association and The Howard School in Atlanta, which provides specialist education for children with learning difficulties. Angus (and his dog) joined the webinar from his home an Atlanta. 

Kate Staples is General Counsel to the Civil Aviation Authority, a role she has held for 11 years. Kate trained and worked at London law firm Nabarro Nathanson before moving to CMS. From there, her career took her to the Department for Transport in 2003, where she held several senior roles before moving to the CAA in 2010. While in this role, events such as the collapse of Monarch Airlines and the pandemic have only strengthened Kate’s belief in the importance of resilience, reputation and personal networks.

In a wide-ranging discussion Angus and Kate shared some powerful insights and tips based on their personal experiences.

On building your resilience…

Take time to develop other people and trust them with important tasks. As well as helping people progress, the art of delegation will stop you having to take on too much yourself. Make a conscious effort too to reflect on your experiences and regroup. See this as an investment in yourself – it’ll pay dividends. Also, and this may go against the grain for many lawyers, resist the urge to be a perfectionist. Be honest with yourself and your colleagues about what work you can and cannot take on. No one person can do everything so this may mean learning when to say no.

In a world of constant change, things you take for granted can be disrupted without warning. It helps if you can learn to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Again, this is a challenge for us lawyers as we’re generally quite a conservative bunch. However, the keys here are to be flexible, maintain a sense of humour and keep a sense of balance in your work and family life.

On building your reputation…

Think of your reputation as the things people would say about you when you’re out of the room. A big part of your reputation comes from standing up for the people in your team and the principles you hold dear. As in-house lawyers and GCs, you’re the moral compass of your organisation. This gives you the opportunity to really anchor yourself to a set of beliefs and, in turn, build your personal brand. It’s amazing how people who share your beliefs will align themselves to you.

Developing soft skills, self-awareness and awareness of those around you will also boost your reputation. COVID-19 has made this vital as the legal functions in many organisations have assumed a leadership role, putting pressure on many in the department. By showing your team that you’re aware of this and that you have their back, you’ll enhance your reputation as a leader as well as a lawyer.

On building your personal networks…

Make time to build your network before you actually need it. Too often, we get so absorbed in the job at hand and serving others that we neglect this vital part of our own personal development. Then, when we need some advice from our peers or when we’re looking for mentoring or our next role, we realise we’ve left it too late. LinkedIn is great but also look beyond online networking and the legal community. Your hobbies, interests, voluntary work and team sports are just some of the great ways to develop valuable connections.

And remember, whoever your network is made up of - colleagues, clients, family, friends, people you studied with – they’re all people. Go beyond your shared interests and make the effort to get to get to know the people in your networks as individuals. Show how you can help them not just in a narrow, professional capacity but through your wider skills and interests as well. Be sure to ask your contacts when you need help, too, as this underlines the idea that meaningful networking is about sharing both ways.

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