In our experience - across industries - the in-house Legal function is so overloaded with tasks from across the business, they can’t see the wood through the trees.
“We’re so busy”.
Three words we’ve heard one too many times throughout our combined 50+ years serving in-house Legal teams.
In our experience - industry-wide - the function is so overloaded with tasks from across the business, they just can’t see the wood through the trees.
The focus to-date has always been very much on sucking as much as possible in-house – and creating a full-service legal function. A bit like a GP surgery if you like.
They’re downtrodden and stressed out of their minds.
And it’s a dangerous situation to be in.
We believe legal is ripe for transformation right now, and here are six reasons why.
A study by EY and the Harvard Law Center for the Legal Profession published in August 2021 highlighted CEO priorities and four key areas where they were affecting General Counsels (GCs):
· 61% of CEOs want to transform their organisation’s risk management approach.
· 88% of GCs are planning to re-evaluate the law department cost structure - mainly due to CEO pressure.
· 99% of Legal departments need better data and technology to digitise processes in contracting.
· 57% of CEOs say inefficiencies in contracting processes slow revenue recognition.
Legal is integral to delivering business goals, but at present teams are not set up for success.
Today’s finance teams have built up muscle when it comes to planning and analysis. They can look ahead and spot trends – as well as assessing this month’s numbers, they check the rear-view mirror.
Legal is more than capable of doing this for a business too – but is stopped.
Your Legal team needs to be able to plan-ahead and see what could happen, in order to protect your business. Looking at risks. Clearing obstacles. And providing the CEO with real insight, wisdom and thought leadership that can help differentiate them from their competitors.
With their heads down, Legal just cannot do this.
We’re starting to ask – why, in such a heavily regulated, legally significant environment, are lawyers not considered for big roles? Why is the function downgraded and not promoted?
Today’s markets are moving fast - and there is so much more regulation requiring specialist skill. Businesses are growing and changing at an unprecedented rate. The idea that you can chase everything is foolish.
There is so much untapped potential within Legal to help a business stay on-top of such changes.
Instead, many teams are treated like Cinderella departments – and are only brought out when it’s too late and a problem has arisen.
The communicated role of ‘In-house Legal’ is badly wrapped into a simple and concise message so that people across the business understand it.
Legal needs to clearer to others in a business as to why they exist.
Your legal department needs to be front and centre - shoulder to shoulder with all other departments. And it does deserve a seat at the front table. It has a unique insight and valuable contribution. If you keep it in the corner and only wheel it out when there’s a problem, you never get to see the value it can offer.
At the start of the millennium around 10% of qualified solicitors went in-house. Now this figure stands closer to 40%.
However, monetarily, today in-house is a very different choice – solicitors are often moving for less money and less financial prospects.
In our view, in-house Legal careers aren’t rewarding. The fellow professionals we speak with are overburdened, overworked, and just not enjoying it.
But if a business wants to attract and retain real talent and see what the function is capable of, it will need to focus on development and rewards.
We started Lustrum Partners autumn 2020 with the goal of being able to help Legal focus on the right priorities. We want to free up their time, so they can focus on themselves. Have more meaningful careers. And invest in the knowledge skills and experience that will propel them as individuals and as a team.
The current legal education on offer is not providing students with the right skills for in-house Legal.
We’re seeing a skill gap when it comes to persuasion and influencing.
Legal are terrible at selling themselves. As a result, they often struggle to get the support they need when competing with other departments.
Finance teams on the other hand, tend to be able to articulate their value a lot better. As a result, they can drive the business forward.
Legal stand aside, grit their teeth and make do.
We want to take the General Counsel role to the next level, so that those coming after us embrace discipline and rigour from the outset.
We’ve seen human resources become ‘Talent management’.
And even ‘Finance’ has become glamourised over recent years. With CFOs now being seen as ‘Tech champions’, with the expectation that they use financial data to influence decision making and strategy.
Now it’s time to shine the light on Legal.
It’s important to note that we have no wish to trash what’s already there. We’re instead looking to alert CEOs to the opportunity they are missing here. If they support their Legal function, they stand to gain a lot.
Shielding the business from risk is more effective, if supported in the right way.
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