In this issue you will read the second in our series on millennial general counsel. After you’ve read the profile, please take the time to view the video interview we did with Mike Anderson, general counsel at WE. His enthusiasm for what he and the organization does is infectious, and you’ll see the future of in-house.
Both Anderson and Amy Avis of the Canadian Red Cross, who we profiled in the March issue, identified early on that they wanted to apply their law school training in
non-conventional ways, skipping the private practice step in their journey to in-house. They aren’t the first to do that; but in today’s climate, where so many are wondering where today’s law grads will get their articling opportunity or if there are indeed enough jobs for young lawyers at law firms where they have traditionally received their base training, I think Anderson and Avis demonstrate that what one decides to do with a law degree in the future will have more to do with personal goals and desires and less to do with the old-school tradition of slogging it out according to a path that no longer fits the goals of many people or organizations.
Anderson identified early on that he didn’t want to pursue a traditional large law firm career. As he explained to me, “I wanted to use the gifts I had been given to help others.” Pursuing a job, Anderson saw the potential and possibility of WE’s “legal manager” job posting evolving into a much larger role. And he was right. Four years later, the job he has grown at WE has given him experience in both the for-profit and non-profit sector in areas such as intellectual property, charity law, marketing and child protection work.
Anderson’s role was continuing to evolve even as I was finishing the profile of him. Last month, he officially joined Inter Alia Law, a virtual alternative services firm that provides in-house legal support to companies and startups on an as-needed basis. Inter Alia focuses on the technology, entertainment and media sectors. It also allows Anderson to continue with WE as its general counsel and receive added support and mentoring from those at Inter Alia Law.
It’s a great example of how young lawyers and, in fact, I think lawyers of all ages can vary their legal career by considering other options outside the typical job descriptions of in-house and law firm life.
I was inspired to do the series on millennial lawyers after seeing Ian Connett, the 30-year-old legal director of Collective, an advertising technology company in New York, speak at McCarthy Tétrault LLP last year. While the average age of general counsel at younger companies is in the mid-40s, I think there are opportunities for especially business-minded young lawyers to jump in to in-house life. At the time, Connett was going by @MillennialGC on Twitter. He is now also founder of Quantum Jurist, a legal tech consulting and technology venture.
Connett was speaking about being an enabler to the sales team and in a very refreshing way was speaking more as a member of the business team.
The opportunities are there in tech and other startups as well as non-profit for those lawyers who want to have a legal career but apply their personal and career goals in a different way. Millennials also embrace the use of technology to solve problems, aren’t as afraid to take risks and want to find personal fulfilment in their work. That may not be happening for young grads trying to get interesting work in law firms these days.