Some days, Michael Redding’s work at ManpowerGroup Inc., Milwaukee, takes him back to his classes as an undergraduate majoring in business at Truman State University. Those early lessons in applying a big-picture focus to business goals have been an asset, he said, since his January 2011 switch from private practice to an in-house role. Redding previously spent more than four years as a business law associate at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC, Milwaukee.
Wisconsin Law Journal: Why did you switch from private practice to an in-house role?
Michael Redding: Stability was an intriguing factor. Stability of workflow and compensation. That was important because I have a young family. I also was intrigued about getting into one organization where you have direct focus in your approach and you know what the organization’s goals are.
WLJ: How is life as in-house counsel different from that of a private practioner?
Redding: There’s definitely more process work because there’s the different departments we have to go through for different issues. That can be good because we have different experts we can lean on. One thing that I joke with my friends still at firms is once you become inside counsel, people are much more willing to talk to you, because you’re not charging by the hour.
The hours are more stable now. The workflow is constant but at a good level. There rarely are times where I’m not busy. Workflow was more irregular in private practice.
I like that it’s more of a team atmosphere in-house. Our team’s great. We really enjoy working together.
WLJ: What advice would you give to a lawyer considering going in-house?
Redding: Having good, sound experience is crucial. I don’t know too many companies that hire in-house counsel straight out of law school. So getting those legal skills and becoming good at what you do is important. Step two is realizing that when you go in-house, it’s a business. You are no longer the profit center. That was one big adjustment coming over from private practice, realizing I’m not directly a revenue generator anymore.
I also advise that you really dive into the business you’re working at: what they do, how they make money, how to add value. You want to limit liability risk as much as possible. You can help the company in its revenue generation through negotiating payment terms.
WLJ: Does your company hire outside counsel?
Redding: Yes, for specialized matters. Most of our in-house team are generalists. At a firm, I knew where to go for a specific issue, but that’s not the case anymore. We don’t have the time to do a long drawn-out research process.
With outside counsel, they can lean on their experiences with some of the different clients they have and apply those examples and what they’ve learned to our situation. That brings the most value to us.