Oftentimes the in-house legal team is thought of as a separate arm of the company that is mainly involved in addressing legal matters such as contracts and negotiations. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding that can limit the organization’s growth. A better way to think of in-house legal counsel is as an integral part of the team who is involved in the growth and success of the company. Here are a few practical tips to help integrate your in-house legal team into the rest of the company to foster growth and innovation.
Set the Tone
First, I think it’s important to change the perception that relegates the in-house team to the sidelines. It’s important to start instilling a new attitude within your corporate culture. Many think of the legal team as the “kings and queens of NO.” They are looking out for the best interests of the company by keeping your contracts legal, but they should be thought of as much more than contract monitors. Their involvement is key to the company’s growth so anything you can do to start getting that message expressed within your organization will help toward that goal.
It’s an attitude that needs to be adapted at the highest level so that it’s passed on throughout the company. Start by updating your internal marketing and communication to reflect the perspective that the in-house counsel is a vital part of the team who are collaborators and facilitators. Be sure to make inter-departmental introductions within the company that also reflect the stance. And anytime there is a new hire orientation that is another great opportunity to convey this message.
One great way to begin encouraging involvement among the legal team and the rest of the company is to focus your attention on hiring legal professionals who have a strong track record of collaboration and driving growth. Make those particular skill sets and their past performance a focus of the hiring process. Find a talented attorney who is social and cooperative, and has a history of interacting successfully with salespeople and clients in a way that facilitates innovation.
Once you’ve hired the kind of attorney who fits this culture, be sure that they attend regular sales meetings. Their input at these meetings is invaluable as they recognize areas of growth and potential pitfalls within current projects. Their regular involvement sets the tone for future expectations as well. It’s also very helpful for them to be introduced to corporate clients and attend client meetings. For some companies (and clients) this may seem unconventional, yet it’s a strategic component of success and it will likely even set you apart from the competition.
Adjust the Space
Some offices place their legal professionals in a distant arm of the building to protect confidentiality. And while confidentiality is important and should be maintained, consider organizing the workspace in a way that fosters more collaboration. This is a simple tip that has a powerful effect on the team. When you organize the space in a way that encourages interaction you get an increase in creative problem-solving and growth. It creates an atmosphere where colleagues cross paths and communicate regularly, sharing thoughts and ideas. Centrally located offices for legal team members keeps them involved in the daily action of the company. And it’s a great way to create a more fun and interactive group where people take ownership over their contribution to the success of the company.
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