In-house legal teams no longer simply provide advice, manage risk and ensure legal compliance. Today’s General Counsel (GC) is expected to help guide the business through times of change and meet commercial objectives, operating as a business enabler and an essential adviser to the board.
It’s a significant challenge and a great opportunity. It’s also something that they’re well-placed to address because their legal teams sit at the heart of the organisation and connect the different departments. However, some businesses are missing this strategic benefit by failing to involve GCs as they should.
Driven by board expectations and a constant need to demonstrate business value, forward-thinking GCs are transforming their legal teams to support their organisations in new ways, introducing technology to deliver more efficient and effective services and enabling their people to focus on higher-value and more engaging work.
Successful GCs are now running their in-house legal teams as a ‘business within a business’, delivering better services and increased impact. Increasingly, organisations are relying on the expertise of the legal department to help realise commercial goals.
To be effective, this transformation needs engagement across the legal team and the wider business. So, as well as driving change from the ground up, GCs are working with senior stakeholders to demonstrate the role their team can play and the tangible benefits of transformation. Those that succeed take a strategic approach, introducing technology or systems that reduce costs without compromising longer-term goals. Simply meeting cost reduction targets can affect day-to-day business, so balancing board demands and transformation projects is essential.
“In the last two years in particular, the legal team has become much more of a trusted business partner.”
Like any other business department, in-house legal teams are under pressure to deliver value. At our recent GC Summit, a PwC survey showed that workloads have increased but budgets and headcounts have stayed the same or decreased for most legal departments (74%).
GCs are transforming their teams so that they can do more with less, but at the same time demonstrating the value they add. By benchmarking their team’s operating model, or using zero-based budgeting, they can show the business:
the critical services, how they add value and how they have changed over time
opportunities for using technology, standardisation or relocation
how the legal team’s performance is measured and how the key cost drivers are identified
where they can introduce change and efficiencies
“Regulatory changes are so much at the front and centre of how the business adapts and continues to compete that you really have to have lawyers at the top table”.
“I’m involved in so much of what’s going through the company, through the business at every pivotal point. And I’m part of the decision-making process.”