Key principles of in-house legal function design

1.   Be clear about your drivers. What is driving your transformation i.e. is it cost reduction or better risk management? 

2.   Think about the culture and language of your organisation. Is it data driven e.g. operational or infrastructure. Professionals such as engineers will want to know the science behind your design plan.

3.   Does it make sense for your team to be a blended team of senior and junior lawyers or more senior? There are factors in favour of both including whether lawyers are expected to operate autonomously and the complexity and value of the work.

4.   Manage the change process, particularly where significant transformation is underway. Have a clear intent and a robust plan. Communicate on a daily basis where possible.

5.   Understand the drivers of legal demand -  is it reduced tolerance for legal risk or is there an element of comfort and hand-holding?

6.   Gain data from your external legal providers. Do your law firms match complexity with the capability and capacity of the lawyers and seek to drive work down to the lowest levels?

7.   Understand your make or buy value parameters. McKinsey research shows it costs 4-5 times as much to outsource legal work as to in-source it. Other speakers spoke of their in-house function providing value 3 times that of external legal services.

8.   Socialise and test the design.

9.   Build trust and confidence with your external legal providers.

10.   Build in a formal review cycle against your objectives involving your key clients and your external advisors.

11.   Work out your internal client service levels e.g. full service, targeted service and self-service and ensure clients know what work type falls into each category.

12.   Where you are reducing service levels, frame the risk and dependencies to your internal clients eg “we will stop doing x, but y might happen unless you do z”.

13.   Look to build an informed client model – teach the business how to self-serve, get better at instructing law firms and when legal advice should be sought (and when it shouldn’t).

14.   As general counsel, your role is to empower, enable and resource. Don’t take on the power of the role.

15.   Be comfortable being wrong and be open and transparent.

16.   Designing your legal function is as much about designing yourself and therefore will never be perfect. 

17.   To make a decision, map your stakeholders and your relationships with them.