Career Development and Career Management for IHL

As part of our webinar series client conversations, we interviewed Matthew Wilson, General Counsel at Fremantle, about career development and career management for in-house counsel (IHL).

When reviewing roles and moves, Matt applies the following criteria:

  1. Choose an industry that is interesting and will be for 5-10 years
  2. Choose what interests you, you need a reason to get out of bed in the morning and feel energized for the day ahead. If you’re not really interested, you’ll have a hard time
  3. Choose good people to work with – it’s really important to have positive relationships

Matt went through many processes to secure roles and the role at Uber was particularly long:

  • Approximately 10 interviews with various contacts at Uber:
    • Internal recruiter
    • hiring manager
    • People within the company across a range of roles and countries (out of six to seven interviews)
    • Last stage of the interview

How do you deal with setbacks in the midst of such difficult processes
Stay close to recruiters and don’t be afraid to ask honest questions and find out whether or not you’re in the running – and don’t waste your time (or theirs) if you’re not.

How do you manage relationships internally – upwards, laterally and vertically?

  • Lateral people are the most important – these are the people who are on the same level as you and you are more likely to progress with them, they have been “with you the longest”.
  • Positive relationships are really important and give you an honest view of what is really going on in a business.
  • Every year Matt has regular meetings within the legal team – that’s around 100 meetings, but it means he can spend 15 minutes chatting with someone about his developments, or more on a particular issue. The visibility this gives him is great as it builds confidence and also helps him amass useful information for his role.
  • It’s also very important to establish respect and esteem for others to promote and approve of you – so that you don’t always have to go down the road of self-promotion.

What are your expectations of your team:

  • be good people
  • Be good lawyers
  • Matt tends to look at what he’s not good at and recruit people who are – he approves of recruiting people who are better than you in various areas. This allows you to trust them to continue and means you don’t have to micromanage

How has your progression been planned and how much is not?

  • It’s a mix of a bit of both! At Uber, Matt knew nothing about the taxi industry and the company took a leap of faith in choosing him. As a result, Matt met other lawyers who worked for start-ups and together they formed the “Disruptive GC Group” which allowed him to get to know people and forge useful friendships and connections.
  • He also attends conferences and industry groups – although he’s a natural introvert, it’s more about building relationships than getting to know each other. Don’t be afraid to say hello to people and “you don’t know where the coffees you have with people might take you”

How to know when to move on:

  • be honest with you
    • Are you bored? And it’s a longer term feeling than a few days here and there
    • Are you still learning things in your role?
    • Do you want to be comfortable or challenger?
      • Matt was very clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be comfortable, do a good job, and focus on other areas of your life (e.g. home life). home and family) and that you don’t have to be ruthlessly ambitious all the time. In fact, being open and honest about your state of mind is really helpful, and it’s a good thing to be honest.

What is one thing you did to maximize your opportunities?
Say yes to things – even if you don’t know it.

How do you work with a mentor:
Be honest. Don’t say what you think they want to hear and be honest about how it works – you might be a better fit for someone else and don’t be afraid to think that way

Should CGs sit on the board?
Matt thinks you should be invited to the board because of you, not your role

What would you say to your younger self:
Do not worry, think carefully about your choices and take your time to choose

Is it better for your resume to stick to one role or move around?
It depends on the circumstances – as long as you have honest and convincing reasons for the moves (obviously if it’s 6 months at a time, that’s not great!) then you shouldn’t worry.

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