The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced March 17, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place live, in-person May 10.
Next is Chief Legal Counsel finalist in the Private Company category Michael Garson, chief legal counsel at SOSi. Here, he talks about career turning points, learning from failures, taking professional risks and more.
What has made you successful in your current role?
For me, I believe that the most important aspect of my approach to the CLO role is really understanding all aspects of SOSi’s business operations, including the customer programs that we support, the technology and services that we provide, our internal organization and processes, and the make-up of our employee base and other stakeholders involved in our operations.
Without a deep understanding of our business, my legal and strategic advice may not be as informed as it needs to be when trying to provide appropriate guidance in specific situations.
Separately, I think the other most important aspect of what I hope has made me successful is being approachable. As CLO, you need everyone to feel comfortable talking to you. It is not a good thing if counsel is brought in at the last minute (if at all) because people are nervous about speaking to “Legal.”
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I think the biggest turning point for me was in 2006, when I went from being division counsel for the Government Solutions Team at Lucent Technologies to General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer for LGS Innovations, the independent subsidiary created as a result of the Alcatel-Lucent merger.
Given the National Security Agreement under CFIUS and the Special Security Agreement with the DoD we operated under, I was unable to rely upon other division counsel within Alcatel-Lucent for legal advice to LGS. I really had to learn how to be a general counsel.
Notably, I also got to work with Kevin Kelly, who is another Chief Officer award nominee.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
Always communicate with stakeholders and clients on the status of promised work ⏤ even if you’re significantly delayed. Being busy is not an excuse for failing to communicate with clients on how things are progressing. You need to make sure that your clients know that you have their interests at heart.
What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken?
Starting my own business strategy and compliance consulting practice. I had no idea if I would be a good seller or marketer of my services (or if there would be specific interest). But I’m glad that I did because I learned to really appreciate how hard it can be to sell.