500 words and 10 things EVERY legal department can do to be more valuable

May 10, 2019

Five hundred words and ten things EVERY legal department can do to be more valuable for their organisations and for themselves:

  1. Have the clearest possible statement of what the team do and why. Be explicit about scope; align scope to your organisation’s needs. Do not pretend you can do everything for everyone, whenever they want it.
  2. Have boundaries. Being a business partner does not mean you have to be pathologically grateful for every little Herbert’s assessment of what might be legal work. Being influential and valuable are not the product of subservience to the inefficiency of others.
  3. Your law firms will say they can be everything you want, however it is your job to help them be everything you need. You must define your needs. Define your needs as they are today, and plan with your law firms for your needs tomorrow.
  4. By the way, your law firms cannot do “innovative pricing” unless you know what you want, why you want it, how you want it and what its value is to you. You can always get something cheaper, and if that is your value indicator, be honest and good luck.
  5. Recruitment and retention are obvious parts of a resourcing strategy. However it is essential to treat recruitment and retention as equally important. Your resourcing strategy must also be aligned with your scope, and it should include tech, process, policy, training and interim support. Plan, influence and budget for your needs.
  6. Report your achievements not your activity. Relate all your reporting to your scope and therefore your clearest possible statement of what you do and why. How busy you are is not an indication of value. If your scope is right, only the achievements you have promised to deliver should matter; everything else may be admirable, but matters less.
  7. If there is no plan to develop your talent and your contribution, you will leave your role at a competitive disadvantage to other candidates going for the same jobs you want. Development is an important retention factor. The best teams do the best development, but this is also vital for your long-term career prospects.
  8. Contribute positively, openly and consistently to your organisation’s values and culture. Do not appear semi-detached and do not confuse professional independence with tolerating poor or destructive behaviours. If the lawyers cannot speak up for what is right, who can?
  9. Be very wary not to create dependency around individual contributions. Always plan to build knowledge and know-how in policy, process and training. If you are too busy to do this, you are failing your business. Your legacy is the infrastructure you build, not how many people sign your leaving card.
  10. Finally, be kind. Be kind to your family, to your yourself, to your colleagues, to your customers and suppliers. You simply cannot perform well for long in any environment which is unsupportive, unkind and unwilling to recognise that work is only a part of your life, and not the most important part either.

Take care. Paul

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