How to Accelerate Your Contracting Skills

New to Contracts? How to Accelerate Your Skills by Jack Terschluse for Contract NerdsWhether you are an attorney new to law firms, new to the in-house role, a new paralegal, a new legal operations specialist, or a new contracts administrator, starting your contracts journey is daunting. Even industry veterans still shudder at the sight of a fifty-page master services agreement with ten appendices!

And if you are leaving a law firm or a more established corporate legal department, you may not have the opportunity to walk down the hall to ask your friend a question about a novel area of contracts. Instead, a law firm may now bill you for that conversation.

Whatever your background, you may feel “outgunned” as compared to your peers who’ve been working with contracts longer. So, how do you accelerate your learning? A majority of seasoned contracts professionals learned what they know by teaching themselves. Luckily for us, we have lots of great resources at our fingertips to get us started. The below resources are those that I have used, and they are certainly not exhaustive!

Books

Podcasts

  • Contract Teardown with Mike Whelan about dissecting high-profile contracts with various guests.
  • Negotiate Anything with Kwame Christian Esq., M.A. about how to negotiate in various contexts, including how to negotiate contracts.
  • Data Protection for Breakfast with Andy Dale and Pedro Pavon about the latest and greatest in the fields of data protection and privacy.

Webinars/Classes

Industry Groups and Conferences

  • In-House Connect (IHC) – Free community for in-house members that hosts regular CLEs and webinars about all things in-house, including contracts.
  • TechGC and DeputyGC – Paid invitation-only community for venture capital funds and high-growth technology companies that helps GCs and Deputy GCs excel in their day-to-day jobs and supports them throughout their lives and careers.
  • Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) – Paid membership for in-house members.
  • Consero – An invitation-only series of conferences that help senior legal professionals discuss their most pressing concerns.
  • Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) – A paid member-based organization of legal operations professionals and others dedicated to improving the delivery of legal services.

Blogs/Newsletters

  • Contract Nerds by Nada Alnajafi – A free weekly blog and newsletter containing their newest article about contracts from community experts, upcoming events about contracts, and other valuable resources. You can subscribe here.
  • Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel by Sterling Miller – A free blog and newsletter with articles on ten points for various in-house topics.
  • Above the Law – In-House Counsel – News and insights about the legal practice.
    • Various posts by Lisa Lang about succeeding as in-house counsel professionally and socially.
    • Various posts by Mey Ly Ortiz about developing your communication and networking skills as in-house counsel.
    • Various posts by Olga Mack about advances in technology and law.

LinkedIn Influencers

  • Alex Su – Transitioning from big law to legal tech. Also on TikTok.
  • Laura Frederick – Contract drafting and negotiation tips.
  • Nada Alnajafi – Contract negotiation and redlining tips.
  • Matt Margolis – Bringing a sense of humor to the in-house practice. Also on TikTok.
  • Lisa Lang – Thriving as a General Counsel and building your personal brand.
  • Heather Stevenson – General tips as in-house counsel and women in law.
  • I also post on LinkedIn about things you don’t realize until you go in-house.

Mentors and Peers

I recommend finding two to three credible professionals who are where you want to be eventually, and asking them respectfully if they’d be willing to be your mentor. Then, make sure to meet with your mentor on a regular basis to build and maintain the relationship.   Here are a few tips to help find that mentor:

  • Post on LinkedIn. You may be surprised at the amount of people who directly want to mentor you or know someone who might.
  • Ask your law school. Contact your law school’s career center. They will likely know someone who would be happy to mentor you.
  • Join professional organizations such as TechGC or ACC: These organizations are a wealth of networking opportunities. Find a few people who fit your mentoring profile, then offer to buy them coffee.

Also, try to find two to three peers that have the same level of experience that you do with whom you can talk honestly about the challenges of working on contracts or being an in-house attorney. Another blog post about this will follow soon!

*           *           *

If you’re new to contracts, be sure to check out the other articles in this series. Stay tuned for more on the New to Contracts? column by Jack Terschluse, exclusively here on Contract Nerds.

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