Future Lawyers Benchmarker Report April 2010


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Settling into a new company can be anything from a smooth transition to an uphill struggle.
As a General Counsel you’re expected to have the experience and knowledge to crack on with
things, but you will undoubtedly have a wide range of questions that need answering: How
should you make the most of your time in board meetings and represent your department?
What is the best way to get to know an organisation? How do you identify and approach
inefficiencies in legal team operations and the wider business?

Badenoch & Clark invited a number of legal leaders from industry to meet, share their views
and concerns and to discuss the management issues they face.

Published in: Career, Business
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Future Lawyers Benchmarker Report April 2010

  1. 1. Making an impact as a General Counsel / Wednesday 11 August 2010 Page 1 0f 4Making an impact as a General CounselDiscussion notes About our roundtablesSettling into a new company can be anything from a smooth transition to an uphill struggle. We see it as a key part of our role to facilitateAs a General Counsel you’re expected to have the experience and knowledge to crack on with networking and sharing of best practice withthings, but you will undoubtedly have a wide range of questions that need answering: How other legal decision makers. Roundtables like this are a reflection of our promise to ourshould you make the most of your time in board meetings and represent your department? customers, to add value by really getting toWhat is the best way to get to know an organisation? How do you identify and approach understand the issues you face.inefficiencies in legal team operations and the wider business? When and where This exclusive roundtable took place atBadenoch & Clark invited a number of legal leaders from industry to meet, share their views Badenoch & Clar’s London office on Wednesdayand concerns and to discuss the management issues they face. 11th August 2010. Hosted byHosted by Colin Loth, Senior Manager, the session provided everyone with the opportunity Colin Loth, Senior Managerto hear first-hand from Clive McKenzie, former Head of Legal & Company Secretary at Laing Jonathan Stokoe, Senior Consultant Kieran Fitzpatrick, ConsultantO’Rourke, and David McElroy Legal Director EMEA at Orbitz, on what different methods canhelp to onboard and integrate General Counsel into their new organisations, and potentialpitfalls to avoid through that process.This exclusive and interactive roundtable also provided the group with the platform to sharetheir own challenges with industry peers and explore ways to resolve the issues affectingGeneral Counsels in settling into a new role.www.badenochandclark.com
  2. 2. Making an impact as a General Counsel / Wednesday 11 August 2010 Page 2 0f 4Presentation summariesClive McKenzie, former Head of Legal at Laing O’Rourke David McElroy, Legal Director EMEA, Orbitz WorldwideAs a new General Counsel it’s what you do and how you behave When you start a new role you should undertake an internal duein your first six months that determines the impact you make diligence check. Whilst this can take time it does help you identifyand the impression that others in the business from of you. After any issues that you might need to focus on. You can do this whilethis six month period it is much more challenging to change your you integrate yourself into the business and make connectionscolleagues’ perceptions. with senior department heads to build relationships so that you can think strategically and help the business commercially.It’s normally taken as read that you, as a General Counsel, havelegal expertise and can manage a team. It’s the things that are Legal departments are all too often seen as a “cost centre”. It’snot in the job description where you need to achieve – personal your job to check and control external counsel cost as well asperformance, demeanour, how you integrate yourself into the to market your department internally as a “revenue protector”.business, strategic foresight and control of external counsel. Whilst you are there to control cost don’t be too quick to change external counsel. They have a lot of knowledge of your businessYou should meet with your management teams and others in senior so you can learn from both them and your auditors. If you doroles to educate them on what the legal team does. Do this both decide to change external counsel, put your work out to bid within a business environment and socially to understand what their other firms.business plans are: to find out about business successes, failuresand aspirations. This will enable you to identify where you can You are the face of the department so hiring decisions are crucial.make a difference. It is essential that you make the right hires. Recruit people for their judgement as the majority of applicants will have theOnce you have got your feet under your desk you could benchmark technical legal ability anyhow. To present a united front as ayour legal team by getting them to time record for a few months. department you also need to back up your staff. Successes willCompare this with how much it would have cost to outsource always be team successes but the responsibility for failures willthe work to external counsel. If your department is adequately fall on your shoulders. If you take responsibility your team willresourced you should find it’ll cost about twice as much as your become more loyal to you.department costs. If outsourcing costs any more than this, andthis exercise has demonstrated that external counsel can cost up Ultimately as the department head you also need to lead. Take theto seven times more, then you have a more compelling case to reins and drive projects forward. Don’t be a reactive lawyer thatincrease the size of your team. hides behind emails.Finally don’t take too much work on yourself and make sure youmaintain your professional integrity. If you’re asked to rush throughcontracts where the consequences of getting it wrong could costyou your job, just say “no”. You’ll be respected more if you do. About the guest speakers: Clive McKenzie, former Head of Legal at Laing O’Rourke David McElroy, Legal Director EMEA, Orbitz Worldwide Clive has over 20 years’ experience of leading in-house legal functions David has 15 years’ experience in private practice and in-house, for both private for a mixture of public and private companies, operating in the UK and and public companies. He worked as an associate for Dorsey & Whitney LLP internationally. He has experience of leading the legal functions of four prior to making his first in-house move to MoneyGram International Inc where different companies, across the property, retail, construction and he worked for seven years. As Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel, he engineering industries. Having joined Laing O’Rourke as sole counsel established the international legal function based in London responsible for in 1999 Clive has overseen a number of acquisitions and grown the legal more than 140 countries. David was then appointed Chief Legal and Compliance team to a 9-strong team covering company operations in EMEA. Officer for Luup Limited and has recently been appointed Legal Director for EMEA for Oribtz Worldwide. David has broad experience as a corporate and commercial generalist and has managed multiple cross-border acquisitions in various European markets.www.badenochandclark.com
  3. 3. Making an impact as a General Counsel / Wednesday 11 August 2010 Page 3 0f 4Discussion notesDemonstrating legal department added value Integrating into a teamDelegates agreed that it could sometimes be quite challenging Upon arrival in a new role delegates felt it important to get out andto get others in the business to understand the value that the about to explore the business so you can see how you can integratelegal department brings to an organisation. Sometimes it can be yourself into the team. Find out what your predecessor did, how anddifficult to quantify the value of the work that the team does with why and then consider what you might change. However delegatesone delegate stating that not every hour spent at work is worth the did advise not to change things too quickly – rightly or wronglysame – for example it might take less than a minute to add VAT into things will have operated as they have for a reason.a document and save the company 17.5% of a large contract’s value. Discussion centred on how a new general counsel might impactIt was agreed that sometimes the metrics conspire to work against on the team and how the new appointment is communicated toeach other - for example: do you focus on quick turnaround or on the department. It was agreed that there are a number of factorsrelative importance to the business? If you spend less time on that can impact upon the integration process such as the lack of asmaller quick issues then you’ll no doubt work on larger issues that, department head to lead the team, stronger team characters whoby their nature, take longer to deal with. may have unsuccessfully applied internally for the General Counsel role and staff from different teams coming together as a result ofSeveral delegates thought it useful to back up suggestions to the mergers or restructuring.board with external reports indicating how cost efficient internallegal teams are – for example a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers It was agreed that the integration process should include regularstudy. one-to-one meetings for everyone during the first six months as well as weekly team meetings. The group also suggested that the settingAnother suggested process to help quantify the cost savings up of project teams to work on different areas of the law can help tothe team provide would be to have your team record their time both integrate you as a department head into the team and also getfor 3 months during a period of the year that would give a good different people within the team working with each other. This canrepresentation of both quiet and busy periods. You could then work prove difficult if staff have previously had no manager and strongerout how much it would cost to outsource the same work annually. members of the team have covered the role.For a well resourced department external counsel should typicallycost at least double that of your department but in some instancesit can cost up to seven times more when outsourced. Should youdiscover that external counsel costs significantly more than twice Creating a unified department with athat of your department you will have a compelling case to add multi-location or cross-border teamresources to your team. It is worth noting that this was quite acontentious idea with several delegates feeling it set a dangerous Many organisations represented at the roundtable had anprecedent of having to justify your time and also risked demoralising international presence and delegates agreed that this adds a wholethe team who probably thought they had left time recording behind other set of challenges. It was felt that distance and different timein private practice. zones make it very challenging to engage with a dispersed team with one delegate pointing out that you don’t get the opportunity toOne of the main benefits of time recording is that you get your own have a daily “coffee machine chat”.figures rather than those of a third party such as the PWC report.It is also useful to be able to accurately inform your other business The group thought that one solution was to make sure your teamcolleagues how long it takes to deal with issues – for example an gets together to meet regularly - establish a time in the week tohour to draft up a letter of intent or to write a settlement agreement. meet or have a call with your team and allow for every meeting toHowever, a few delegates did offer a few words of caution. Time be different. Delegates did also advise that, despite the fact thatrecording should be taken in context with a pinch of salt as one it can be costly to have your team travel regularly to meetings, it isdelegate mentioned that in private practice it was found to be up important to maintain regular meetings otherwise the schedule andto 30% inaccurate. It should also only be used to demonstrate the departmental structure can quickly breakdown.value your department is able to add. If other departments find outand decide you’re too expensive they may well use external counsel There is also the cultural consideration. Delegates advised thatbehind your back which ultimately adds cost and can make it harder there are massive cultural implications, even between countriesto justify the value your department is able to add. where the same language is shared. One delegate shared their experience of working for a US based company with the group, cautioning that, as General Counsel, they frequently play the role of interpreter. In addition to this you may have to translate politics on organisational issues – how far can you challenge a decision that has been made by the board?www.badenochandclark.com
  4. 4. Making an impact as a General Counsel / Wednesday 11 August 2010 Page 4 0f 4For locations like the Middle East and India delegates advised that development could be a better incentive – improvement in theit is absolutely crucial to understand the do’s and don’ts of each quality of work or simply being a better lawyer. Delegates agreed itcountry. It is paramount to be sensitive to cultural issues as there is important to demonstrate to your team that you’re putting in theare often very different expectations of how you deliver personal effort to help them improve.development. The group did also offer a few words of caution on motivatingIt was felt that the most important factor to employee engagement, staff – not everyone is motivated by progression or doing theirregardless of location, is to talk through the issue. Whilst wide role even better (assuming that they usually undertake it to avariations in time zones may mean that email is more convenient, satisfactory level). Some people want to just do their job and do itdelegates stated that it is vital to make the effort to have a well from 9.00am to 5.00pm and delegates really value them as theconversation, even if it is just over the phone. department would literally grind to a halt without them. Some of the delegates advised that you need to “see the person” and refrain from projecting what you want for them onto them.MotivationTechniques employed by delegates to motivate staff varied quiteconsiderably. One offers a day off in lieu when staff work more Summarythan 36 hours in a week whilst another offers greater autonomy The process for General Counsel to fully integrate themselves intoand responsibility by allocating a business client or country their team and their organisation is clearly complex. There are aresponsibility to a junior member of staff. However a number of number of key issues that must be tackled – demonstrating to thethe attendees warned that staff being given extra responsibility board and other department heads how the legal department addsshould only be handed it if they want to. Sometimes staff can feel value to the business amongst them. In addition to this there arepressured into agreeing to extra responsibility even though they the more day to day impacts on the output of your department thatdon’t necessarily feel comfortable with it. must be tackled such as making sure your team is fully engaged. This is made all the more challenging by physical distance andDelegates suggested that HR could also help with motivating staff cultural considerations that need to be taken into account. Asideespecially where there budgets are limited. Another suggested no/ from budget there are also a number of considerations that needlow cost way to motivate your staff is by public recognition of work to be made when trying to motivate your team such as allowing thewell done and to work with other department heads to get them to flexibility to both motivate the ambitious and maintain the statusemail their thanks personally. quo for those content to keep working hard in their current role. It is these multiple responsibilities of the General Counsel role thatIt can be challenging to motivate an in house legal team by a make it so appealing and, for those that aspire to lead the position,promise of career progression. Typically there is only one General can be extremely fulfilling. Good luck with all the challengesCounsel or Legal Director so promotions and positions of that lie ahead.seniority are few and far between. It was suggested that career© 2010 Badenoch & Clark. All rights reserved. Badenoch & Clark accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or the opinions expressed herein.Recruitment specialists for: Accounting & Finance, Banking & Financial Services,Human Resources, IT, Legal, Marketing & Communications, Procurement & Supply Chain,Project & Programme Management, Public Sectorwww.badenochandclark.com