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As senior paralegal at Lean Technologies, Salma Abdussalam offers legal advice, assistance, administration, and more in support of her business counterparts. It is a role that has taught her the value of collaboration and asking more questions, as well as exposing her to the impact legal can have as a true strategic business partner. When she isn’t sharing her passion for the law with her business colleagues, she’s sharing it with her pro bono clients as a way to educate and empower others.
Read how Abdussalam reflects on a common misconception in the legal industry, her approach to problem solving, and her most meaningful pro bono experience.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about being an attorney or the legal function itself?
There are a number of misconceptions about the legal industry in general, however, one that often affects in-house lawyers is the notion that the legal department cannot be considered as strategic business partners, i.e., they are simply the department of ‘no’. While in-house lawyers are integral to a company’s operation in terms of effective risk and compliance management, the sheer breadth of matters a legal team is involved in that seek to safeguard a company’s legal and business interests means that they are deeply involved in the day-to-day operations and strategic planning of the company. Accordingly, when legal leaders combine legal expertise with their deep insight into the company’s business goals and objectives, they can support with informed decision-making and good governance practices that foster stakeholder trust across the organization.
What’s a piece of unconventional advice you’ve received that was helpful?
Sometimes, finding a solution to a problem can be reliant on asking the right questions instead of jumping to give an answer. On a general basis, where routine is established in the course of business, going along with the flow can be the comfortable path. However, this might not always lead to effective problem solving and in fact might be causing invisible delays/gaps that often end up frustrating the parties involved. Advice I have come to admire and use quite a bit is to never shy away from asking questions even when the answer might be obvious. The goal is not to derail impactful conversations but to spark a new line of thinking or to clarify the true reasoning behind an intended action. I have personally witnessed how easily this facilities better cross-functional collaboration, often leading to more creative and focused outcomes.
What is the most meaningful case or pro bono experience you’ve worked on?
My most meaningful pro bono experience was when I presented on the rights of women to a small community of expat women in the UAE. While positive discrimination or ‘special measures’ attract a wide range of opinions, one of the key facets of being a legal professional that I do not take for granted is the ability to decode legal texts to understand the fundamental entitlements I am afforded under any legal system. And so, to be able to then share this ability with a group of women from different backgrounds left a discernible impact on how I view the practice of law and the role I play within it.
Find Abdussalam on LinkedIn.