Checks and balances where there are business lawyers and legal specialists

When a law department has a matrix structure of functional generalists and legal specialists, checks and balances occur. There is an inherent tension which can be healthy for the law department (See my posts of Sept. 10, 2005 on specialist attorneys in large law departments.).

The specialists feel that the functional lawyers are always business-centric, as if the business unit lawyer goes native and the functional specialists counter-balance them.

Tension also can arise around the question of whether and when the business unit generalist should pass off a matter to a specialist, such as an employment lawyer or litigation lawyer. Is it a collaborative effort, or does the business unit lawyer control? The question then arises is whether the relationship lawyer is adding value, which is analogous to how much inside counsel add value when there are outside counsel.

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