A strong legal department is a great corporate asset, both in company safety and growth opportunities. They tend to develop organically and resemble the corporation they’re a part of, but leadership should still take care to direct and optimize that development. Here are five essential qualities to consider for a modern corporation wanting to build an effective legal team.
Highly focused value delivery
A modern legal team should prioritize those aspects of the business which have the most impact on the company that employs them. This means being ready to regularly reassess their process to check whether it genuinely adds value.
The legal team’s actions should always be aligned with the company’s business priorities, largest risks, most promising opportunities, and potentially critical bottlenecks.
The greatest pitfall to watch out for is sticking with the same old processes because “that’s what we’ve always done before”. This is dangerous because it prevents the team from identifying the habits which yield low-value results.
They should approach the company’s legal matters with a strategic mindset. Each team member should utilize their experience and specialties toward a bigger picture.
For example, there are six distinct areas of Australian corporate law and each has to follow specific procedures in practice. Thus a modern Australian corporation will want a legal team that can reckon with all of those factors.
A diverse team composition
This somewhat ties into the previous point. Diversity is a big buzzword in recent years, but it brings more than sociopolitical reputation points to the company. A diverse legal team has measurable practical benefits too. In general, it means a stronger, closer-knit, and better-performing team.
A diverse unit is automatically a highly collaborative environment. People have to up their communication and compromise skills. They must practice patience and impartial thinking to navigate the patchwork background of their team. These are all highly desirable traits in legal professionals.
Likewise, more diversity means more bases covered. You can put together a unit with multiple specialists in several areas of law. These experts will pool their experience to grant your corporation a well-rounded perspective and much better long-term advice.
To continue with the example of Australia, a company headquartered in Sydney should include a specialized property lawyer from Sydney in its in-house team. They will have intimate knowledge of area-specific legislation, recent Sydney-centric cases, etc. which a non-area property lawyer would miss out on.
This results in much smoother handling of any property disputes, expansions, and transactions. It also nicely rounds out financial legal advice by putting it in the context of the company’s primary location and its market and constrictions.
Smart resource management
Legal advisors must always keep in mind what it might cost the company to follow their advice. If the practical price (not just in money) is too high, the company might decide to forgo the legal advice, even if it’s to its own operational detriment.
This holds especially true for legal teams that are strictly in-house. They must consider various factors, including:
- Company size and structure
- Department size and structure
- Available discretionary spending
- Various strategic alternatives
- Client relationships
- Managing outside service providers
- Balancing outside advisors with different specializations
- Necessary purchases (e.g. data security software)
The trickiest part is that all of these factors change from situation to situation. It’s alright to have go-to tactics for common problems, but a modern legal team must always be flexible in its approach. The same solution might not be optimal in similar situations that happen at different points in time.
Innovation and resilience
All the contributing factors we mentioned above can sometimes become very limiting. Bureaucratic procedures can complicate work and various resources can become scarce. A top legal team will be prepared to develop and implement strategies to navigate that.
Examples of such resilience include streamlining processes, improving engagement between legal and leadership teams, developing training programs for personnel, and implementing better legal technologies.
The point is to always keep up with developments. A modern corporation needs a legal team that takes the initiative. They should always be looking for ways to improve their overall services and the value they deliver.
A continuous feedback loop
The best way to achieve everything we mentioned is to embrace constructive criticism. A contemporary legal team must consistently scrutinize their individual and group performance.
Constant vigilance is the best way to catch necessary tweaks before they devolve into major bottlenecks. Feedback should be provided by fellow team members as well as managers, clients, and the corporation itself.
In summary, the most essential traits of a modern corporation’s legal team are focus, diversity, resource management, resilience, innovation, and openness to feedback. Achieving a balance of these qualities will empower the team to grow and evolve, improving the business along the way.