In-house legal teams: Identifying and nurturing value

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Bridging the gap between private practice and in-house

The advisory board recognised that developing genuine business insight is a critical first step before encouraging in-house lawyers to develop closer relationships with business colleagues.

However, the vast majority (>90%) of in-house lawyers are initially recruited from private practice. While they might advertise commercial awareness on the CV, they are less likely to have developed the skills necessary to truly understand their business in a way that helps them add value.

This knowledge and experience gap might include:

  • Understanding the business model of a "non-legal" business
  • Working with, influencing and motivating people outside a law firm hierarchy
  • The operational and procedural side of working in a "non-legal" business

The Advisory Board noted that to some extent this gap might be narrowed through identifying and hiring those with either existing skills, or a personality that is likely to support the development of those skills. This personality might typically be demonstrated by:

  • An instinctive curiosity about how the business operates 
  • An ability to use this insight to ask the right questions to business colleagues 
  • A natural tendency to then think about what the lawyer can do to help

One board member queried whether individuals who do not possess these skills could be trained. The answer that emerged from the group was that while the core capabilities must be there – not everyone can do this – they can and should be the focus of development and training for in-house lawyers.

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