Eleven ideas for how to unify a global law department

If your legal department is scattered around the world, you might like to know some of the ways you can create a one-department culture. These ten techniques certainly do not exhaust the topic, but they should help you strengthen your efforts. I have listed them roughly in what I perceive to be their declining order of frequency.

  1. Intranet. If everyone in the department can see the same organization charts, FAQs, learning resources, and policy statements, it helps bring them together (See my post of Nov. 30, 2008: legal department intranet sites with 12 references.).
  2. Retreats and conferences. Nothing beats shaking hands with a colleague and getting to know them in person (See my post of Feb. 12, 2008: retreats and conferences with 8 references; Oct. 3, 2008: Gucci’s annual legal meeting.) and my article, Sweet Legal Retreats Download 05-09-19 Rees Morrison Retreats
  3. Call-ins by all or most lawyers. Telephone conference calls, although they present time-zone challenges, let colleagues hear each other and talk together (See my post of June 17, 2008: Starbucks.).
  4. Visits and travel. This often means the general counsel flies much of the time, but it can also mean visits every now and then by other lawyers to distant outposts.
  5. Common standards and technology. If everyone uses the same matter management system or the same document system, they have a common bond. If policies and guidelines apply worldwide, the various locations feel more part of one department.
  6. COE (See my post of Sept. 10, 2005: COE, center of excellence; Feb. 4, 2008: GE.)
  7. Secondments (See my post of July 17, 2008: secondment with 12 references; and Jan. 23, 2008.).
  8. Cross training. If you take the time to teach backups in distant offices, it can help knit together a department (See my post of Oct. 19, 2008: cross-training initiatives.).
  9. Buddy system. Pair up lawyers away from headquarters with a peer from headquarters (See my post of June 17, 2008: Starbucks.).
  10. Ex pat assignments. Send people for a tour of duty and they will help over the longer term with integration (See my post of Jan. 12, 2009: ex pat lawyers and their costs, with 7 references.).
  11. Rotations (See my post of Aug. 28, 2008: rotations for lawyers with 7 references.).

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