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Why You Need a Legal Department Assessment


Leading former General Counsel agree that holding legal department assessments at regular intervals helped them to streamline their legal services, articulate departmental value, enhance communication with executive leadership, and identify and retain top legal talent. For law departments that do not have a prescribed legal operations function, conducting regular assessments is vital to maintaining the health of the department, and promoting development.

Through a combination of surveys, interviews, and analytics, General Counsel assess the strengths and weaknesses of their department and create a road map for success. Businesses are trending to more regular assessments and reviews, designed to facilitate progress and provide feedback on performance. Get ahead of the curve by holding periodic holistic law department assessments that are designed to improve the work of your lawyers and add value to the organization, and become an integral component of your overarching legal department strategy.

Interviews with former General Counsel revealed the ways a legal department assessment can answer questions related to the function of law departments. Here are some of the areas where a legal department assessment can help you focus your attention and resources:

  1. Data - Demonstrate the value of your department through consistent data collection and information that informs and reinforces your decision making. Introducing periodic assessments gives you baseline data that can be used to benchmark the progress of your department, assess room for improvement, and establish your deliverables.
  2. Costs - In-house counsel work to mitigate risks and avoid mistakes that could become costly legal battles. Quantifying the legal costs avoided by the conscientious work of your legal team demonstrates proof of value to your business. An assessment will help to create additional cost reduction initiatives by revealing inefficiencies in your department's operations.
  3. Talent - Your department’s greatest asset is its people. Identify your top performers by conducting a thorough review of the legal team’s expertise, efficiency, and work load. Ensure that you have the right talent to meet your business's current legal needs, and explore ways to grow the skills of your team through professional development and training.
  4. Communication - Review the relationships the legal department has throughout the organization and with outside counsel. Gaining a better understanding of the perspective of your business partners will help you to guide expectations for executive leadership as well as the legal team. Hold interviews or surveys with the C-suite, direct reports, and business partners to gauge perception of the legal department and its services. Data gathered throughout the assessment will support your future conversations with the C-suite and board, with the advantage of clear deliverables and proof of value.
  5. Business priorities - Aligning the legal department with the needs of the company as a whole will distinguish your leadership. Identify how your legal team has supported the needs of the business, and areas where legal expertise can contribute to business goals. Revisit the company’s mission and strategize how to lead your department in support of the business.
  6. Legal services - Anticipate the changing needs of your organization and prepare for an evolving range of legal services. Take stock of the resources currently available to your department, including talent, technology, and expertise, and create strategies designed to accommodate an increased and more diverse workload.
  7. Trust - Responsiveness, trust, and open communication are crucial to successful partnerships within your business and with outside counsel. Revisit how the legal department interacts with other departments throughout the business, and the processes in place for communication, collaboration, and counsel.
  8. Professional development - The law department should be encouraged to see how an assessment can strengthen the department holistically and benefit lawyers individually, ensuring cooperation and a smooth introduction of the assessment process. Creating professional development opportunities from the results of your assessments - whether recognizing achievements, or creating plans for employees to develop additional skills - will incentivize high performance and help to sustainably resource your department and retain talent.
  9. Consistency - Regular assessments keep your team on track with opportunities to take the temperature of office culture, work ethic, performance goals, and legal needs met. Setting up a recurring assessment as part of your strategy is strongly advised, monitoring the efficacy of initiatives over time.
  10. Addressing issues and getting ahead of potential problems. With periodic assessments, gaps in service become readily apparent. Benchmarking your legal department regularly against industry standards and past performance should show steady growth and improvement. As your business grows, and standards change, your department must be agile and manage new challenges. Assessments will help you to craft strategies to quickly identify problems and address your solutions in a targeted way.

Strengthen your legal department by introducing regular assessments to monitor progress and stay on track with your goals. BarkerGilmore’s team of senior advisors are poised to offer an outside perspective and impartial eye throughout the legal department assessment. Take advantage of experience and industry expertise and work with an advisor to assess your legal department and build your assessment program.

Topics: Legal Talent   |   Advising & Coaching   |   Executive Search


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