So you think in-house lawyers are not important?
8 minutes • 13 Jun 19
In-house lawyers (“IHLs”) must verifiably deliver far more with far less, and in an overall climate where the business community they serve continues to question the tangible value they represent.
All too often you hear it said “Our business doesn’t need a lawyer because lawyers …
- … are just a cost centre that doesn’t make us money.”
- … don’t really contribute to the key aspects of the business.”
- … cannot help us achieve our corporate goals.”
IHLs must actively debunk such misconceptions if their full value expression is to be recognised, and if they are to set the scene for making the even greater strategic contributions now required.
This article seeks to aid this process by shining a much-needed light on the criticality of IHLs. We do this by viewing their role through the simple prism of a common IHL role - contracting support.
Some IHLs may not have a true sense of the value of their contract support role simply because it feels routine. This blog highlights the value of that role and The GLS Legal Template Solutions that allow IHLs to leverage it.
Key to vital business processes
Consider this: Critical work is not done by unimportant people.
As can be seen from the below infographic, within a typical business an IHL’s contract support role brings it into contact with more of the vital business processes than almost any other job function.
The potency of an IHL’s contracting can and does materially impact the ability of a business to initiate, sustain and optimise the vital business processes that drive overall business performance.
The correlation between the work of the IHL and business performance is direct and absolute - yet, value recognition for that role remains low.
Familiarity should breed authority, not contempt
Sadly, however, the above contracting scenarios are frequently considered “garden variety”, despite them relating to vital business processes, and this frequently leads to low IHL value recognition.
As such, it is critical that IHLs remind themselves (and their businesses) of the importance of the support they provide - if IHLs cannot appreciate what they do, then no one else will.
Our recent article Top 10 Legal Docs - The Work Horses looks at 10 common agreements whose business-criticality is unquestioned yet frequently overlooked.
Clearly not everything IHLs do is new, exciting and glamorous – but the criticality of the role, and the potential for additional strategic contribution, frequently resides in its “business as usual” nature.
To bear the point out, by supporting vital business processes of their business the importance and value of the IHL grows considerably as they:
- contribute to the architecture and implementation of almost all vital business processes;
- are proximate to and best understand those vital business processes;
- typically operate across and beyond the bounds of “business unit” and geography; and
- often acquire a more holistic understanding of the overall business.
The unique IHL vantage point affords insights, relationships, knowledge, mobility and visibility across the business which, if leveraged correctly, can allow for enhanced IHL strategic contributions.
Indeed, the ability to make even greater strategic contributions increases dramatically if an IHL is consistently recognised as delivering “business enabling” contracting support to their business.
Leveraging business-enabling legal contracting
A “business-enabling” approach to contracting is about delivering reliable contracting outcomes to a business in a better, faster, cheaper and safer manner.
The ability to deliver “business-enabling” contract support requires the use of world-class legal templates to drive a qualitative contracting experience that features:
- a clear and continued focus on desired outcomes – the “what are we trying to achieve” and creates the conditions needed for those outcomes to emerge;
- documents that are easy to work with – i.e. documents that can be understood, reviewed, amended and administered with ease;
- documents that set the deal up for success by being absolutely clear on each party’s respective rights and obligations;
- key-stakeholder time not being diluted by “white noise” issues/negotiations;
- external consultants being used only for matters that genuinely require their expertise;
- the power of “plain language drafting” to quicken understanding and the contracting process; and
- the building of cross-party deal rapport that sets the groundwork for successful long-term commercial relationships.
By contrast, using “any old” contract template to support a vital business processes is like building a house upon sand – you are using weak foundations which reinforce a diminished view of the value of IHLs.
The use of “business-enabling” contracting has the following impacts of IHL value recognition:
If, by any chance you are not convinced by this proposition, simply ask your internal client what kind of contract experience they would prefer...
The mirror reflects what is there
In many ways the quality of a legal template library reflects the value a business places on its IHL - just as heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight reflects one’s overall physical health.
IHLs should therefore ask themselves – are their templates:
- strategic “business enabling” assets - i.e. are they are part of a high IHL value recognition environment?
- a mish mash of ad hoc and variable quality documents – i.e. are they are part of a low IHL value recognition environment?
If your templates are not "business enabling" assets you are likely to also experience low IHL value recognition.
After all, if your business does not value you, why would it give you the best tools?
Universal access to business-enabling legal templates
Whilst historically only the biggest, most generously funded IHL teams have had access to high quality template libraries – now anyone can access and afford this resource via The GLS Legal Template Solutions.
The GLS Legal Template Solutions are an online, fully curated and automated library of self-editing world-class legal templates that allow you to deliver contracting solutions for the most common business scenarios.
For as little as a few hundred dollars, The GLS Legal Template Solutions enable IHL teams of all sizes to pivot towards “business enabling” contracting and command greater IHL value recognition.
Now IHLs of all sizes can access legal templates that deliver a "business enabling" experience that in turn will drive IHL value recognition and page the way for greater IHL strategic contributions.
Viewed through the contract support lens, especially with respect to vital business processes, you can see that the IHL's role can only ever be considered as business critical.
However, to ensure that the IHL role is viewed in its proper light, IHLs must:
- themselves recognise the criticality of their role to vital business processes;
- communicate the value of their role clearly to their employing businesses; and
- demonstrate that value by actively delivering business enabling contract support in all cases.
The GLS Legal Template Solutions grants access to “business-enabling” templates that will help IHLs achieve value recognition and a build a platform from which they can deliver greater strategic value to their businesses.
In our upcoming Seminar series “Transforming In-House” we will further explore how IHLs can leverage their unique vantage point in businesses to make ever greater strategic contributions.
Until then, when you hear someone say “Our business doesn’t need a lawyer”, remind them that you are critical to achieving your business’s goals – and then prove it!