This post is an excerpt from the final edition of The Link for 2021. Check out the whole digital magazine here.
Companies often make their first legal leadership hire -- typically a General Counsel (GC) or Chief Legal Officer (CLO) -- during a period of crazy growth or because of a problem. If you’re new or operating solo, you know being a team of one can be tricky. This roadmap will help you add value and build internal allies.
Here are six focus areas for one-person legal teams with insights from Tim Parilla, CLO at LinkSquares.
Find solvable problems
Companies hire an in-house attorney to add value, but the challenge is defining that value. The early days provide an excellent pretext for uncovering problems and clarifying success, so get to know your peers and leaders. According to Tim Parilla, CLO of LinkSquares, “Drill past anything vague to define addressable issues and identify what you can solve. Easy, early wins earn credibility and support longer-term problem-solving.”
Maximize your time
“Many things provide value, but not everything offers value at the same level or within the same amount of time,” said Parilla. Look for high-impact, low-hour projects. Familiarize yourself with existing software, tools, and applications, and gather insights into existing contracts to assess threats and discover opportunities.
For example, if you find contract drafting process fixes are necessary, consider an automated solution. Alternatively, if you need to streamline deal closing by coordinating with sales, support, and finance teams, consider connecting a contract management tool to a customer relationship management (CRM) or accounting system. These may deliver significant returns in a reasonably short time.
Create a single source of truth
Remember: you can’t fix everything. Instead, focus on the fundamentals, such as:
Updating primary corporation documents, including articles of incorporation, by-laws, and LCC documents
Cleaning up or preparing a cap table showing equity positions
Ensuring the right human resources policies are in place
Drafting form agreements for standard contracts while installing a repeatable contracting process
Getting ahead of data privacy and security issues
Protecting IP, including trademarks, patents, copyrights, and trade secrets
The right contract lifecycle management (CLM) software is an invaluable support system. Before modern CLM solutions, tasks like drafting, finalizing, analyzing, and monitoring took days. Today’s artificial intelligence (AI) enables software to read and understand contracts while allowing legal teams to collaborate better. A good CLM eliminates the typical flurry of emails for sending contract drafts and approvals and allows you to operate more efficiently and strategically.
Prioritize relationship building
Strong relationships are critical for role satisfaction and getting work done with internal clients like finance and sales. Someone at your organization likely handled legal issues before your arrival. Get to know these people to understand how the business addressed previous legal matters.
“Build a network of lawyers by joining professional organizations, find others in a similar role, and get scrappy with LinkedIn,” Said Tim. “Building a brain trust to swap insights is akin to creating your board of directors.”
Build your business case with data
A commonly overlooked problem for GCs and CLOs is commercial awareness. You need to understand the business, adjust and discern where commercially important work is.
Naturally, balancing things like commercial progress and compliance is tricky. Still, consider the hard-number impact of your work and track the sales outcomes. You can build the financial case for expanding your team by monitoring metrics, including total legal spend, outside counsel spend, matter types by spend, and timekeeper rate comparison.
Don’t doubt your value
Protecting your company, its interests, and facilitating growth are vital - so never doubt your value. Still, it’s up to you to ensure a long and successful tenure. Establish yourself as an important business partner by defining success, prioritizing tasks, developing rapport, and evolving as a data-driven leader. The above can help you get off on the right foot.