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In-House Counsel

Enhancing the Relevance of General Counsel in Modern Business

As the legal industry continues to evolve, so does the way the legal department adapts to technology. Today’s general counsel are expanding their scope of responsibilities, becoming more data-driven, and follow a “business first, lawyer second” mentality. As a result, in-house legal teams have the opportunity to become one of the most efficient and effective business units in a company.

General Counsel (GC) have always been responsible for providing legal advice to help a company stay compliant amongst regulatory changes, but the scope of their responsibility has broadened significantly. No longer immune to financial pressures faced by other departments, GCs must have a complete understanding of the business, and control over department spend, budget, and staffing. A best-in-class GC isn’t just a legal adviser, but a strategic business partner, risk manager, business analyst, and budget keeper.

Here are three mindsets for general counsel to embrace in order to go from helpful to high performing at a company:

Speaking the Language of Data

In order to have a complete understanding of the business, GCs use technology to collect data so that they can speak quantitatively about their department and have metrics to measure productivity such as total legal costs, cost per matter by practice area, internal vs. external spend, etc.

Access to these metrics allows GCs to be more closely aligned with their C-suite colleagues and to proactively propose business process improvements – emerging as a key member of the leadership team. GCs are even considering how legal technology aligns with core business processes, ensuring closer collaboration with other key departments such as AP or finance, procurement, and HR. By looking beyond their own departments, GCs gain a clearer view of how legal can contribute toward achieving overall business objectives.

Visibility and data provides a foundation to evaluate outside counsel. Optimizing these relationships creates additional benefits that impact the business and its bottom line. For instance, GCs are increasingly using data to measure vendor performance and evaluate prospective partners to ensure the best mix of in-house and outside counsel resources.

Business First, Lawyer Second

A GC focused on legal issues to evaluate and mitigate risk is a great asset to any company. However, the modern GC has taken on a “business first, lawyer second” mentality. Their legal skillset provides a foundation to grow into a strategic leader within the C-suite.

With access to the right legal data points, reports, and dashboards, GCs are armed with the data to run one of the most efficient and effective business units within the organization. The modern legal department has more power than ever before to significantly shape the future of the organizations they serve.