In the face of new challenges like increased regulatory oversight and increased shareholder participation and engagement, corporate legal departments are facing tough questions about when, how, and why to restructure. Although no one corporate legal structure is ideal for all departments, every legal department can benefit from focusing on a few key issues relating to its structure and functions.
If your department is considering restructuring or just looking for new ways to deal with developing challenges, consider the following questions:
- What core competencies or types of service are we trying to deliver?
A legal department must be responsive to the needs of the company it serves, and the best legal departments master the skills and services their company needs most. What competencies or services need to be mastered, however, depends on the particular department and on the organization as a whole. For some legal departments, the top priority is the ability to mobilize quickly in the face of a challenge. In others, it’s risk detection, or the ability to embed regulatory guidance into complex business processes. And nearly every legal department needs to be the world’s foremost expert on its own primary client: the organization it serves.
Consequently, answering this question is key to analyzing corporate law structure. Once you know what the department must do, you can address how best to do it.
- How accessible should the legal department be?
Accessibility is great when clients have questions – but it also creates more “opportunities” for crucial assignments to be slowed down or derailed by low-value work that doesn’t need to be in the legal department’s purview. Determining exactly what services the corporate law department will provide and on what terms will clarify how the department should be structured to create the right amount and types of accessibility.
- How important is it to “protect” our specialists so they can focus?
Many legal departments adopt a “generalist” structure with regards to their attorneys, not realizing that in many cases, it’s one or two specialists who do the heaviest lifting. Determining who these specialists are and protecting them from distraction so they can do their best work can improve efficiency and drive structural changes in the legal department.
- How can we best structure the department to maximize knowledge protection without sacrificing quality of work?
Knowledge protection and data management are two of the biggest emerging issues of the 21st century. Legal departments can address both current information-related issues and future contingencies by structuring themselves accordingly.
- Are there opportunities for outsourcing work to other firms, using contract attorneys, or delegating and managing workflow in other non-traditional ways?
Increasing numbers of law departments are seeking to control costs by outsourcing both legal and non-legal work. As the structure of the department begins to shift in response to other emerging priorities, opportunities to take advantage of outsourcing and other options become more clear.
At Assigned Counsel, our experienced legal recruiters can help your legal department find the top-quality staff you need. Contact our team today.