Corporate law departments were once allowed to function passively, handling matters brought to them by their internal clients and working with outside counsel with little oversight by corporate management.
Those days passed long ago. Now law departments must satisfy the expectations of their companies’ managements that they (i.e., the in-house lawyers) will proactively manage the companies’ legal affairs and related matters with attention both to successful outcomes and to delivering and managing cost-efficient service.
What does that portend for the law department of today? The current economic and financial environment mandates – more than ever before – that all corporate functions pursue efficiency relentlessly. Corporate management rightly expects that all units of the company, including the law department, will focus on that pursuit in addition to their “full time jobs.” This means that the corporate legal function must drive toward that goal throughout its operations. It also means that both internal and external resources must share that commitment for the law department to deliver legal service most efficiently. In short, the company’s lawyers must ensure that they collectively provide the company the highest value legal service possible to enable the firm to achieve its business objectives most efficiently.
Value: material worth, as in commerce or trade
Able: having necessary power, skill, resources or qualifications; qualified
Value-Able: having the necessary qualifications to increase the material worth of legal service in commerce
For the in-house lawyers, success in delivering the highest-value legal service depends upon the following: a thorough understanding of the company’s historical use of legal service (both internal and external); a strategic approach to the selection and deployment of those and other legal-service resources to serve the company’s needs; and an appreciation for the tools available that can deliver both short-term and long-term improvements in the delivery of legal service to the company’s operating units. The cost of the legal service needed for the company to deliver its products or services to the market must represent the lowest possible cost consistent with the quality and other necessary qualities for the business. In other words, the legal resources must deliver the greatest value possible to the company.
Outside legal service providers must also understand how their services can add value to their corporate clients. Many times, the value of their services is impacted – positively or negatively – by factors that might not appear clearly to them.
Lauer & Associates can assist your law department or your service provider to identify and apply the concepts of value as they relate to legal service and to maximize the value of the legal service provided and of the internal and external resources deployed on behalf of a company. Building on the consulting and in-house experience of Steve Lauer, Lauer & Associates provides its corporate legal clients unsurpassed understanding of their needs and the changing dynamics of the legal profession.
In what ways does a law department enable its company to achieve business objectives?
Realizing the maximum benefit possible from the efforts, on the company’s behalf, of the various providers of legal service and related efforts requires careful and sensitive management of disparate resources and personnel (internal and external).
Sustained success requires a well-thought-out plan.
Selecting and retaining appropriate counsel constitutes the first, important step in deploying external resources to the company’s legal affairs.
For most companies, the cost of external legal service represents more than one half of the legal budget.
Many aspects of a law department’s responsibility – from selecting appropriate external resources to applying the best internal resources to the matter – depend upon a good understanding of the matter in question.