How To Maximize Your Advantage As In-House Counsel
May 23, 2019 04:39 PM EDT
Businesses have begun moving towards in-house counsel because of the benefits that they realize from having a team on call. In-House Community states that the rising costs of hiring external counsel has been one of the major reasons why companies have started to fill out the ranks of their in-house legal teams. A result is a massive number of lawyers that work for companies directly.
While there are several benefits that a professional lawyer can realize from working for an in-house team, the real value that the lawyer has to the company is more nuanced. According to Thomson Reuters in their new State of Corporate Law Departments report, there are five significant factors that in-house legal departments should be aware of when bringing value to their parent companies.
1. Developing an Environment That Promotes Innovation
Minter Ellison notes that innovation in the legal profession may be defined simply as a willingness to do things differently. In attempting to innovate, internal legal departments must look at how innovation can deliver potentially more efficient services at a lower cost. The driving factor in this consideration is the cost to the parent company, as the reason an in-house department was founded initially was to lower the cost of consulting fees.
2. Collaborating with Private Legal Professionals
There is no way that a legal department can cover every eventuality in existence when it comes to corporate law. However, while collaborating with external entities may become a necessity, the amount of time and money spent on these collaboration depends upon how well prepared the internal team is and what they're seeking to find from their external consultant.
To maximize the effectiveness of this collaboration, the professionals involved must have a well-defined problem to tackle. Harvard Law School notes that when professionals operate with a well-defined problem, they tend to produce better business outcomes, which then attracts and keeps higher quality talent in their in-house departments.
3. Gender Diversity to Fuel Higher Quality Legal Functions
One of the things the study notes is that the legal profession is woefully imbalanced when it comes to gender diversity. Corporate Counsel mentions that as little as 17% of cases assigned to in-house departments have a female lead partner. The traditional view of the legal profession as an "old-boys club" has carried on into the twenty-first century.
For companies to maximize the value their legal professionals bring to the table, the old ideas of sexism need to be laid aside. The recent past has shown that law firms are still keeping this outdated mindset. Market Watch notes that despite women entering law firms at roughly the same rate as men over the last twenty years, across the board, women make up less than 20% of equity partners in law firms.
4. Supporting the Development of Project Management within the Department
The American Bar Association notes that there is an increasing demand for professionals with project management skills within the legal profession. By developing a systematic way in order to manage legal projects and setting them out in a logical manner that takes into account resources spent, and time put into the project, in-house legal teams can potentially work smarter, not harder. The result is a more efficient use of resources (including time) to get work done.
5. Promoting the Creation of Teams That Have Diverse Abilities
High-performance legal teams are the all-stars of the in-house corporate legal world. By creating an efficient and effective team, a company can leverage their combined talents across a wide range of legal disciplines.
Having a team with a diverse skill set, like these Chilliwack lawyers, allows for the members to analyze a particular problem from multiple positions and determine the best course of action that would benefit the company the most. In this way, having a team that can cover a wide range of legal issues while at the same time being able to deal with problems that may arise during their research is an ideal use of a skilled and highly functional in-house legal team, one that offers extraordinary value to their employers.
The Value Question
It was only a couple of decades ago that outsourcing legal work for companies was the norm. As prices for legal consultation started rising, companies have come to depend more and more on their in-house legal team to do the heavy lifting for them.
However, the issue of cost arises, especially if a legal team isn't offering the kind of benefits the company expects from them. Instead of cutting corners, companies should try to encourage the department to cultivate these kinds of work ethics to be more effective legal counsel for the company, as well as make for more efficient usage of the in-house team's strengths.