The Voice of Authority: Impactful Communication for In-House Counsel

  • July 29, 2022
  • Bailey Davis

The Voice of Authority: Impactful Communication for In-House Counsel

The ability to effectively communicate is of the utmost importance, especially for in-house counsel as they face the challenge of relaying complex legal advice to colleagues coming from various scholarships. In-house counsel must be reflexive and ask not only, “Is my message getting across?”, but also, “Is my communication creating a positive impact?”

When you are able to communicate with impact, you amplify your influence and your listeners are much more likely to retain the information. Your ability to be focused and clear with your messaging leads to better client relationships, as well as gains in time and money. And who doesn’t want more of that?

As part of Conference 2022: Deconstructed in May 2022, LexisNexis sponsored a panel of leading in-house counsel from across Canada to look at how to assert and maintain your leadership through impactful communication, with a focus on the key areas of managing change, building your brand, creating trust and driving compliance.

Managing Change

Change. Some of us fear it, while some of us enthusiastically embrace it. In a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world, leaders at the forefront of change need to be able to confidently steer their team through the inevitable ups and downs.

Melissa LaFlair, Director of Legal Operations at WSIB Ontario, addresses how to best approach your team to drive change and avoid engaging the acute stress response, best known as the fight-or-flight response. She makes the following suggestions for communications to lead your team through change towards the desired outcomes:

  • Determine the why, make it compelling, and be sure to use that as your anchor when communicating to your team.
  • Plan your timing and pace of communications. Remember that people tend to make poorer decisions when overwhelmed and as the day progresses. Be clear, concise and aim to meet in the morning.

“People do not resist change. They resist and fear loss—loss of certainty, of status, of competency, of rank,” she explains. “People embrace change when they think the perceived benefit outweighs the perceived loss.”

Building Your Brand

Ranj Sangra, Associate General Counsel at Ballard Power Systems, describes personal branding as “a conscious and intentional effort to promote yourself in order to create and grow influence as an authority and a leader.”

According to Sangra, these are the critical elements of building your brand:

  • Trust: Be authentic and be willing to be vulnerable.
  • A strong network: Nurture relationships with people inside and outside your organization who will advocate for you.
  • Community involvement: Provide value to your peers by getting involved with not-for-profit organizations, for instance.
  • Communication: Strengthen your skills so that you can share your vision in a precise and confident manner.

Two programs that proved invaluable for Sangra to build his personal brand and that he credits for his continued success are:

Building Trust

Nothing cultivates trust and deepens connections as well as being authentic does. But what does it mean to be authentic in the workplace? Argiro Kotsalis, VP Legal and Chief Governance Officer for the Vancouver Airport Authority, takes this question head-on.

She explains it is about bringing your whole self to the office—but leave the sweatpants, Dorito crumbs and slang behind. “We are talking about the best professional version of yourself.”

How do you show up, vulnerability and all, in a professional capacity? It begins with knowing yourself then translating the most polished version of that into your clothing, language and how you treat others. As the great Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Driving Compliance

Ensuring compliance for your organization is one of your most important jobs, and it begins with everyone understanding what must be done. Begin by dropping the legal jargon. You must prove your value, not your intelligence.

Wendy Law, Deputy City Manager of Legal and Administrative Services and City Solicitor for City of Vaughn, gives great advice on how to best communicate with your team so that everyone understands and is on board. She recommends beginning with asking questions to ensure you understand the context. Law prefers to use a problem-and-solution statement: “This is what I think the problem is (present problem) and this is what I think we should do (present solution).”

This session provided an armful of takeaways to help you become more confident and successful in communicating in your role as in-house counsel and in general life. Remember that your communications are competing all day long with those of others, so honing your skills will increase your impact and influence at each touchpoint.

You can watch the entire panel presentation on the conference platform until June 19. If you registered for a conference package, simply log in to the platform. If you would like to register now, visit the conference site for more information.