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Today, a modern and tech-savvy legal team should be at the very heart of an organization and be regarded as a key resource and valued business partner. But getting there is no cakewalk. To achieve this, your team must talk the same language as its clients, understand the business and demonstrate the value of its contribution to the organization.
Business, regulatory, and political environments are changing rapidly and, as a result, legal departments face a variety of challenges, including:
§ Increased competition.
§ Uncertainty around longer-term planning and investment post-Brexit and COVID-19.
§ Increasing regulation.
§ The need to protect your business's brand and reputation.
§ Globalization, including supply chain vulnerability.
§ Rapid changes in technology.
§ Tightening budgets.
§ Rising customer and client expectations.
Many of these factors will define the role of your legal team. Organizations increasingly want their lawyers at the heart of strategic business planning. As well as ensuring compliance, lawyers have a big role to play in achieving business goals and protecting property, brands, and reputation.
At its heart, the in-house legal team is there to ensure that accountable decisions are taken at the right level and function in the organization, and that the individual's making those decisions are suitably informed about the level of legal risk inherent in them. Contracts, advice, and training are an in-house lawyer's way of helping the business to keep its legal risks at tolerance.
Most probably, a corporate legal team's work is likely to be a combination of:
§ Transaction support, including contracting and compliance.
§ Helping the organization understand the legislative and regulatory implications of its upcoming new projects, products, services, and expansion plans.
§ Litigation. For instance:
ü Claim and defense work
ü Risk assessment
ü Regulatory investigations, and
ü Managing down the legal consequences of business failures.
§ Intellectual property work, and
§ Managing external counsel and controlling costs
Additionally, an organization may expect its legal counsel to manage risk and help it improve its efficiency by providing early warning and intelligence and be involved in formulating its strategy. Good business planning should factor in legal, regulatory and compliance risks, and associated spending.
Why not!! As the leader of an in-house legal team, you should aim to achieve the following three key objectives.
Be the (legal) heart of your organization
Attempt to align your goals with the organization’s aims and focus on what's most important instead of unstructured or lower priority activity. Know your organization inside-out, the sector you are working in, and the competitive, regulatory, and political factors that affect it. Understand what is expected of you by the Board, senior management, key internal clients, and external stakeholders (for example, customers, suppliers, and regulators).
Make your contribution measurable
Spread out what you will bring to your organization on the table, and the value that it will deliver. Adopt performance management measures that tell your team, and the wider organization, what you are doing, how much it costs, and how it contributes to the organization’s success. Use key metrics that demonstrate this contribution, including in financial terms.
Highlight your value to the organization
Try and control expenditure by managing your own resources and those that affect external partners, particularly external legal providers. Share in-house knowledge to improve planning, risk management, operational efficiency, and self-reliance among clients. Be innovative by looking at ways to improve your service and increase value. Finally, manage relationships with partners, regulators, and stakeholders.