The key to success for a lawyer in the timber industry—or any industry, really—is to be all in. With extra emphasis, let’s call it ALL IN, in fact: an acronym for Adapt, Listen, Learn, Include, and Network.

Clients need counsel who adapt to the situation at hand, design a solution that works for the client, and adjust tactics and overall strategy as new information emerges. Clients do not gain value from advisors who are locked into a preferred approach when the situation demands something different.

Working on transactional due diligence with forest-products companies, for example, I take each deal as the client presents it. The scope, timing, and depth of the information provided or review completed at each stage of the transaction varies from deal to deal. Acquiring an older pulp mill, say, presents different challenges for the due-diligence team than does selling a chip plant or distribution warehouse.

Lawyers love to talk, but the key to achieving the best result for clients is to listen. Counselors must do so to identify the pertinent legal questions, certainly, but equally important is listening for the business context and operational reality enveloping those questions. When I assist a client with permitting for a new lumber dry kiln or making an upgrade to a pulp digester, for example, I keep an ear open to the financial and operational effects of the proposal. I listen to operators discuss construction schedules and vendor requirements so the regulatory review doesn’t hinder progress.

Be curious, ask questions, and learn what drives results at every level of the organization, and prepare your advice to support each one. A mill-level environmental manager may be driven to streamline records to avoid duplication and ensure compliance; the mill manager might focus on compliance and production demands; senior leadership might instead focus on reports to the governing board and shareholders, or on a future business strategy not yet widely known.

Company representatives are proud of their operations, and operators want to work with counsel who know the difference between a dry kiln and a veneer dryer, a batch digester and a continuous digester, clean condensate and foul condensate. These days, the most meaningful compliments I receive come when the process engineers like what I have to say.

Law firms are developing intentional diversity-and-inclusion programs catalyzed by client expectations. These programs’ essence is to recruit diverse professionals and include them on client pitches, projects, and relationship teams. Advocates for women in the timber industry are emerging, and trusted advisors can help promote change. Beyond gender and demographic diversity, staffing a variety of perspectives, life experiences, and personality types on problem-solving teams is proven to produce better results.

Working for forest-products clients, I’m often the only woman on the team. When all other voices confirm the flow of discussion, an unexpected and relevant question from me can take the analysis in a new and valuable direction.

Finally, the U.S. timber industry is tight-knit; use that network to add value for clients. While competitive with one another and certainly familiar through trade associations, trusted advisors can connect like-minded leaders to facilitate collaboration where appropriate. Recent enforcement defense matters I’ve handled in the pulp-and-paper sector prompted me to network with forest-products companies and share my experiences. Clients appreciate the valuable information and the willingness to take time to communicate on a topic of interest. Connect people who can help one another—those with shared experiences, and those who will benefit from your gift of connection now or in the future. Build that kind of network and nurture it.

If you’re all in for clients in timber, then you’re all in for any client anywhere. Lawyers working for the timber industry help build one of America’s sustainable natural-resource sectors and support a workforce of proud, committed individuals. Going all in will help you do the same for your industry, too. 

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Krista McIntyre currently serves as the practice group leader for Stoel Rives’ environment, natural resources, and land use practices and is a member of the firm’s seven-person executive committee. As a leader and a lawyer, Krista routinely asks, “How can I help?” Krista’s recipe for success is proven: understand the goal, collaborate on a course of action, and adapt as needed to succeed. Krista is considered among the region’s leading environmental lawyers, because she is responsive to clients, knows how government agencies work, and gets results. Krista focuses her law practice on enforcement defense and permitting under the Clean Air Act (CAA). Prior to joining Stoel Rives, she worked as an attorney at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice.