To provoke readers, and to push myself to organize my own thoughts, I hereby anoint ten management concepts as the most crucial for general counsel to ponder and apply.
The top five are Client, Risk, Quality, Productivity, and Talent:
Client – without an entity there is no need for an in-house lawyer. Once there is, the client is what the in-house lawyer serves; Risk – the primary goal of an in-house lawyer is to minimize the client’s legal risks while also enabling profitable operations; Quality – a measure of in-house performance, along with productivity: quality is effectiveness, whereas performance is efficiency. Quality legal work reduces risk and benefit the client; Productivity – stigmatized as a cost center, an in-house legal team strives to accomplish as much as it can given its resources; and Talent – arguably the second-most important concept after Client. Not technology, not systems, not procedures and practices, but the supple minds of experienced and committed employees.
The next five most crucial management concepts for general counsel are Structure, Information Flow, Decisions, Value, and Objectivity:
Structure – the way the legal department is put together, including reporting lines, location, roles, and responsibilities; Information Flow – closely related to talent and productivity, this is an umbrella term for training, learning, knowledge management, communication up and down, candor, and generally who knows what and when; Decisions – at its essence, lawyering comes down to applying legal knowledge to make law-related decisions; Value – the net contribution the law department makes to strengthen its corporate client; and Objectivity – the control function of a law department by which it improves the clients’ risk profile yet facilitates business.