Demonstrating Value as an In-House Legal Team
‘If I let my legal team make all the commercial decisions, we would never do any business. If I let my sales team make them, we would be broke and in court within eighteen months’.
The CEO who said this to me was (I think!) exaggerating to make his point. What he wanted to highlight was the perception that on one side of the business are the rain-makers and entrepreneurs. They seek out and create opportunity, generating revenues and driving profit. They bring innovation and creativity to the unending task of building a thriving and growing business. And, often, they do all those wonderful things in a way that exposes the organisation to legal, financial, reputational and potentially existential risk.
By contrast the CEO was implying that lawyers are often accused of being professional nay-sayers, risk-averse and congenitally cautious. According to this view, the in-house legal team raises problems and creates barriers, obstacles and difficulties, earning a reputation as the “Business Prevention Unit”.
Both of these descriptions are parodies however both contain a grain of truth. In our work with General Counsel (GC) and in-house legal teams we have identified five dimensions of success. By “success” we mean that the team is embedded at the very centre of the organisation, working in close collaboration with colleagues in every other function area to manage risk, implement strategy and contribute to business success. In this article, we look at each of those dimensions in turn.