Building a Resilient Legal Department
by Rich Cohen, Managing Director and Fractional In-house Counsel
Today’s societal, investor and regulator expectations and the exponential advancement of data and technology are creating significant pressures, demands and opportunities for General Counsel (GC) and their legal departments. Increasingly, they are being called upon to do more, expanding their focus to areas that include environmental, social and governance (ESG); diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA); and all things risk and compliance. Today, the GC is expected to serve as a strategic business adviser, who not only understands all aspects of the business but also manages effectively a vast array of operational issues while optimizing the legal function.
Five principles for success in legal department optimization
- The legal department thrives by running like a business unit and by embracing the same disciplines of economy and efficiency as line-of-business departments.
- The legal function is motivated to reevaluate what they do, how they do it and why, and to question the necessity of doing things as they have traditionally been done.
- Legal teams can pursue technological solution opportunities, but they don’t expect technology to fix broken processes. They focus on fixing people and processes first.
- Legal department optimization evaluates the fitness of technology investments already in place and chooses modifying solutions and processes — and retraining people — prior to deciding to purchase new technologies.
- GCs make smart, informed, incremental changes after gaining the support of their internal clients, recognizing that legal department optimization is a process and not an event.
Focus on a small number of discrete areas and seek “quick wins” to demonstrate the value of optimization efforts.
Start your journey
As you explore opportunities for legal department optimization, consider the following recommendations:
- Lean on flexible labor options to enhance and supplement your existing staffing model because business will continue to move fast. Recognize that the jobs people are performing today may not have existed five years ago.
- Keep apprised of the latest technology and recognize the direction the business has taken. Also understand the pressures that customers, clients and business partners are putting on the organization and actions the legal department may need to take to help prepare for emerging issues such as ESG and other business priorities.
- Artificial intelligence, alternative currencies, privacy laws, etc., are evolving constantly. It is critical you surround yourself with the best people possible. Look to bring in bright and creative talent to the legal department. Also, just because you did something a certain way before doesn’t mean you should be doing it again.
The GC role has grown in recent years, but no aspect of their traditional duties has gone away. Many GCs are now embracing legal department optimization in response to new demands and challenges. They’re evaluating the legal function through new eyes — as a business unit — and taking an astute perspective to lead the legal department in delivering greater value for the enterprise.
For more information about our legal consulting offerings, visit Protiviti.com/Legal-Consulting.
Rich Cohen brings more than 40 years of legal services experience at both public and private companies. He advises in-house counsel on the development and strategic use of metrics-driven legal assessments to mitigate risk, drive efficiencies and contain costs, and serves as fractional in-house counsel.