Three Ways the Legal Department is Crucial to Company Success

In-house lawyers rarely get the spotlight they deserve, but there are three ways the Legal Department is critical to the success of every organization.

When it comes to direct impact on an organization, in-house lawyers rarely get the spotlight they deserve.

  • Marketing has more glitz
  • Sales touts a straight line to revenue
  • Finance cuts the paychecks

However, there are three universal ways that the in-house legal team is critically imperative to every organization:

1. Breadth of perspective

Because in-house legal teams have a broad range of responsibilities – overseeing transactions, managing legal risk, resolving disputes and more – they are often the only function in a company that has access to all aspects of the business, along with big-picture visibility into the organization’s objectives.

Who else touches everything from sales to employment to compliance to cybersecurity and more? This perspective is a golden opportunity for the organization to smooth the path between departments, to ensure that unseen blockages by one Department do not hinder the goals of a project for another Department, or worse the whole organization.

Consider a decision to expand service territory. Legal would:

  • Counsel Marketing on product packaging, advertising issues and brand protection
  • Discuss jurisdiction-specific contracts with Sales
  • Review hiring plans with Human Resources
  • Monitor cybersecurity guidelines with IT
  • and much more

2. Facilitator vs. Blocker

Let’s stay with the hypothetical decision to expand service territory.

In companies where Legal can act as a Facilitator, such a move is made easier, every step of the way. Lawyers are recognized for their abilities to anticipate problems and remove obstacles, and empowered to do so. The Legal Department is relied upon to connect the dots, and by doing so, they impact timing and outcomes, saving the company considerable time, money and hassle.

Consider the alternative: Organizations where the Legal Department has been passively put into more of a “Blocker” role. In this scenario, the business functions often act both independently and dysfunctionally, working off incomplete information or guesswork, and doing their best to avoid "The Department of No."

In such a setting, a new service territory is likely to spawn several problems, systemwide. It’s easy to imagine that six months later, Sales is using boilerplate language that is invalid in the new jurisdiction; the company is sued for infringing an incumbent trademark; HR has made a number of noncompliant hires….and more nightmares yet to be discovered.

woman with a laptop - stressed at work

3. Problem solving

Lawyers bring specific skills and knowledge that make them especially well-equipped to advise on business issues, not just letter-of-the-law issues.

Intangible traits often include big-picture vision, tactical execution and a strong moral compass. But notably, lawyers also sit in a department where they are monitoring the external environment as much as the internal one; that provides much-needed insight for solving problems, whether they are business, legal or, as often is the case, a combination of the two.

A University of Michigan Law School panel shared one example, where the leaders of a consumer products company spotted trademark infringement. The in-house lawyer confirmed the infringement – but also pointed out the perpetrator was a major vendor of the company, thereby steering the CEO from an adversarial stance toward a more collaborative solution.

Without visibility into the critical work done by the Legal Department to protect and advance the company’s position, companies can (and far too often, do) pigeonhole their lawyers into a mysterious abyss of “Legal” – or worse, The Department of No.

This is detrimental to both sides. Business clients who do not recognize the value of the Legal Department are far more likely to “go rogue,” or raise risk and liability by letting issues simmer.

At the same time, in-house lawyers who are not engaged as strategic advisors have higher rates of burnout and turnover. According to Axiom’s 2022 In-House Counsel Industry Report, only 13% of respondents said their role was completely aligned with the strategic business objectives of the broader organization. Of those who felt disconnected, 94% planned to seek a new job within the next two years.

If this ☝️ is you, then your colleagues in Marketing might say, it’s time for a rebrand: How do we build awareness of the Legal Department and affinity for the lawyers, their skills and abilities?

It starts with an understanding – on both sides – that the Legal Department is critical to the success of every organization.

woman using laptop

Show the value of your Legal Department

We believe it’s time for in-house legal teams to gain the visibility and credibility they deserve. And we also believe that in the process of doing so, they will build stronger relationships with the companies they serve – improving outcomes for all parties.

Are you ready to become an In-House Legal Hero? Xakia’s white paper will help you realize your superpowers – and the ROI you deliver.

Complete your details below and download the white paper now to learn how you can become an in-house legal hero.

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Show the value of your in-house legal team with Xakia's legal matter management software

To learn more about our legal matter management software, speak to the Xakia team today about a demo or sign up for a 14-day pilot and show the value of your in-house Legal Department to the organization.

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