Behind the scenes with Tech’s General Counsel

Photo by Blake Israel

Students browsing around social media may notice a new Tech affiliated account with an unusual username in their suggested follow list. At first glance, Instagram users may not associate the handle @workhard.havefun with an account run by attorneys, but the lighthearted account allows followers to gain an inside look at the everyday life of Tech’s Office of the General Counsel.

The Instagram account, that frequently posts wholesome gifs and behind the scenes pictures of Tech’s legal staff, is updated by Ling-Ling Nie, who serves as General Counsel and Vice President for Ethics and Compliance.

Nie, who arrived at Tech in March of 2019, started the social media account as a way to connect everyone in the legal office.

She brought the idea over from her previous job as Chief Compliance Officer and Assistant General Counsel at Panasonic, where she originally came up with the idea of maintaining an Instagram account for the legal department there.

The original idea behind the social media account was to keep the team connected with each other and present an alternative perspective into the
lives of everyday attorneys.

“It was an idea I came up with and shared with my general counsel as sort of a useful tool for a number of reasons,” said Nie.

“For one, it helps to dispel the myth of what a lawyer is to our clients. We also used it as an inclusion tool since at my last employer we had attorneys all over the world, so we don’t necessarily know who everyone is and what their hobbies are and what they do, so it served as a way to stay connected and learn about each other.”

The Instagram account serves as a way for Nie to incorporate one of her passions into her work at the Institute.

“Growing up I was really into scrapbooking. I love photos, I love captions and I love design,” said Nie.

“I was on my high school student newspaper staff. I was always scrapbooking on the side, and when you start working time is never available anymore for your interests outside of your career. So, I thought well why don’t I transform my love of scrapbooking in some way that will be useful to me and my job. The Instagram account became kind of a creative outlet for me to kind of continue doing some of these things that I love, but too it was really an effort to kind of humanize the legal function so people saw us as human beings first and sort of lawyer second.”

The account’s name, @workhard.havefun, is a reflection of Nie’s philosophy when it comes to work. “I’ve told people this before and they get a little bit scared when I say it, but once I finish what I’m saying I think they understand, but I don’t actually believe in work-life balance,” said Nie.

“I don’t think it actually exists in the way that we think it should. If you’re constantly striving to have an equal amount of time at work and an equal amount of time with your home life, you’re going to be disappointed because we have so much to juggle. I sort of subscribe to that philosophy of work life integration where work becomes part of your life and the way to make it manageable is to make it fun.

“You know, we’re human beings, we have lots of hobbies, we are friends, we can bring your whole self to work and you don’t have to save that for after work hours. I really want people to enjoy working here, enjoy coming to work and enjoy their colleagues and I think this Instagram was sort of a reflection of that approach that I tried to take to managing this team.”

The motivation behind the account is that community members who interact with the Instagram page will see that the legal team at Tech is approachable and here to help.

“I hope [students] walk away thinking that the legal team is a part of the campus community. The analogy I like to use is like we’re lifeguards; we tell people what the rules are and we’re here to save you so that you don’t get yourself in trouble,” said Nie.

“I hope people take away from it that we are a group of really diverse individuals who like to have fun, we like to work hard and we get a lot of fulfillment from serving our clients. I hope people see that there’s more to being a lawyer than just contracts and lawsuits. We are human beings just like everybody else.”

Many posts on the page highlight the comradery of the legal office staff, including pictures from staff social outings. Nie feels as though these opportunities to bond are vital to a good working environment.

“I think people underestimate the importance of just spending time together, and not talking about work, it really sort of builds that fundamental relationship that you need to have when you’re faced with difficult issues,” said Nie.

“You know, I won’t lie, being an in-house attorney is a tough job. Being an attorney at Georgia Tech is a tough job. There’s lots of really difficult complex issues that we have to deal with and so the team really needs to get along with each other, and like each other to be able to tackle these things as a group.”

Nie stresses the importance of using the legal services at Tech to your advantage when needed.

“My motto is always contact us early and often,” said Nie. “You don’t need to come to us only when you have a problem, you know, feel free to come to us at any time. We’re more than happy to kind of share what we’re doing to sit down with you and help you work through what challenges you might face as you’re embarking on a new project or initiative.”

Nie also encourages students interested in pre-law to get connected with the team.

“I am very much someone who really wants people to pursue legal careers. I think it’s responsibility of lawyers right now to kind of create a space for the next generation of attorneys and so if anyone who’s pre-law or who’s considering a career in the legal field, wants to reach out and spend a day with us or just chat on the phone, we’re very happy to do that.”

Students interested in learning more about the Office of the General Counsel can follow their Instagram account @workhard.havefun or visit generalcounsel.gatech.edu/about to learn more.