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A potpourri of management points in a recent article about a UK law department

So many management points popped up in a recent Legal Week article (26/06/2008) about ITV’s new legal chief, Andrew Garard, that I decided to choose juicy quotes and embellish them (See my post of Feb. 13, 2009: drastic purge of law firms.). The ITV legal team includes 87 lawyers.

“I decided that all lawyers should have a direct reporting line to me. It is necessary for good governance and was readily accepted.” Garard engineered this change to the most common reporting structure (See my post of Aug. 5, 2008: decentralized reporting with 7 references.).

“I operate an open-door policy where people are welcome to come in talk to me.” I smile at the phrasing “operate a policy” but the availability and accessibility of a general counsel, especially of a very large department, is crucial (See my post of Feb. 12, 2008: management by walking around and open-door policies.).

“The role of the legal team as the ‘conscience of the business’ is something he is keen to impress on his in-housers.” That is a burden for in-house attorneys, to enforce rectitude (See my post of May 3, 2006: the law department as an “ethical beacon.”).

“People in my team need to be solutions-focused, instead of giving dry advice, saying ‘that’s the law’ and thinking they have done their job,” Garard argues (See my post of May 3, 2006: importance of knowledge of the business).

“There is strategically no point in using in-house teams just for the purposes of contracts – we are much more than drafting warehouses.” True, absolutely, but a large part of what the commercial lawyers do relates to contracts.

“There is appreciation and acceptance at the top table in the US; they have deeper and better relationships with the business,” he says. “In the UK there has been a perception that in-house lawyers had not made it, but that has changed over the past 10 years.” Hear, hear!

“General counsel is a lonely job – it is nice to have someone in the same position that you can turn to and bounce ideas off.” When the pound stops here, you need to spend some time with others who feel that isolation and stress that comes from making tough calls (See my post of Feb. 2, 2005: groups for GCs to join; March 24, 2005: GC group formed in the UK; Aug. 28, 2005: gathering peer general counsel at a conference to discuss management ideas; Sept. 17, 2005 #3: Wisconsin GC Forum; Sept. 27, 2005 #5: In-House Lawyers Association; Dec. 19, 2005: PELF; April 15, 2006: legal committees of trade associations; June 6, 2006: associations of European in-house lawyers (ECLA and IHLA); June 19, 2006: Solicitors in Local Government; Oct. 22, 2006: groups for general counsel; Nov. 4, 2007: Texas General Counsel Group; and Aug. 13, 2008: lists 10 in-house counsel groups around the world.)