Attendees at a session of the SuperConference learned what inside lawyers need to know about the business of the company they support. For all but a few specialist lawyers, deep knowledge of how the business makes money, how accountants and CFOs think about things, and how the industry moves contributes enormously to the career success of a law department’s lawyers (See my post of May 7, 2009: know how your company and industry operates.). Conceding the importance of intimate understanding of one’s business, what changes translate that imperative into the structure of a legal department?
One change would be to assign most of your lawyers as dedicated support to business units (See my post of June 15, 2008; alignment with clients with 16 references.).
Another change would be to choose one lawyer to handle incoming calls from a particular business unit – a single point of contact (SPOC). That translates client familiarity into structure (See my post of Dec. 9, 2008: single points of contact with 6 references.).
Third, a general counsel might locate lawyers near the clients they serve most. Proximity significantly boosts communication and familiarity (See my post of Jan. 16, 2009: geographically decentralized law departments with 13 references.).
The furthest commitment to embedded knowledge of a business is to have lawyers report to the business units they need to understand so well (See my post of Aug. 5, 2008: decentralized reporting with 7 references.).