The rungs of the skills ladder inside may not match the rungs of the services-needed ladder

Visualize a tall ladder, with each rung one of your law department’s lawyers. Where the rung is on the ladder summarizes its lawyer’s unique collection of skills, seniority, motivation, EQ, experience, training and other attributes. Now visualize a second ladder, but for this one each rung represents a set of your clients’ needs for a certain kind of legal counsel and services. Where those client rungs are depend on the set’s complexity, sophistication, pacing, relationship to other areas of law, client personality and other attributes.

Simplifying reality a tad, imagine finally that each lawyer handles one legal area and each client need requires one lawyer. Ideally, then, the rungs on the two ladders in your company match, like a zipper. Lawyer A has just what Client Service A needs – without unused capacity, and like a spiral helix the law department’s resources mesh with the company’s legal needs. Where a client service rung lacks a counterpart lawyer rung, outside counsel come to the aid. Where a lawyer rung lacks a client service need, you had a hiring mistake.

But in the real world, some rungs are force fit. Lawyer A does the best she can for Client Service A, because there are only four lawyers in the department. The rungs are at different levels; the round peg services the square hole. Withal, the ladder metaphor may help a general counsel think through the fit.

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