Xakia Blog

Offering Simple, Practical Information For Legal Departments

How to Ace the “Justify Your Existence” Conversation

June 24 2021 by Jodie Baker

As the global economy starts to stabilize, most organizations are getting out of triage mode and many CEOs are taking hard look at their org charts to ensure they have the right players for the post-crisis economy. 

In PwC’s 2021 CEO Survey77of company leaders said their No. 1 priority was to “seek operational efficiencies,” edging out: 

  • pursuit of growth 
  • new products/services  
  • strategic transactions 

Legal Departments will not be exempt from this scrutiny.  

Indeed, the rebound of 2021 means most in-house teams should assume the “Justify Your Existence” conversation is coming – and the smart in-house teams will be prepared not just to defend their position, but to advance it. 


The CEO Mindset 

It’s helpful to start with an understanding of the CEO’s wants and needs. 

In a 2020 survey, Chief Executive asked more than 100 CEOs about their relationships with general counsel. It provides helpful background. 

Tactical Strengths. CEOs said the three areas of greatest impact for Legal Departments are traditional conflict resolution roles: 
  •  litigation/investigation management
  •  risk management  
  • crisis management 

Strategic Weaknesses. Meanwhile, CEOs listed the biggest areas for improvement as: 

  • business strategy  
  • industry knowledge  

The perceived strategic gap becomes very evident when the CEOs were asked to rank their sitting general counsel against their ideal general counsel. When asked about “acting as a strategic business partner,” 75% said their ideal GC would – but only 55% said their current GC did currently. 

Conversely, 25% said their current GC “acts solely as a legal counselor and manager of legal risk,” but only 8% of CEOs wanted this. 

As Chief Executive wrote, “For a CEO, not having a GC who is able to serve as a strategic adviser is the equivalent of a coach at a sporting event with one person missing on the field … A nonstrategic GC typically has the reputation of a business blocker, rather than an enabler.” 

What this means for you: In 2021, it’s more important than ever to show your team’s contribution to the company’s strategy. A list of active matters and a promise to stay under budget will not suffice: It’s time to show your value. 


Preparing for Your Sitdown 

First, the good news: If you have a modern matter management system in place, you will have quick access to the data you need to create simple, compelling visualizations. Xakia’s white paper, Best-in-Class Legal Reporting, can help you get started with practical advice and examples, including specific advice on reports for the C-suite 

Now the other good news: If you do not yet have a modern matter management system, this can be an effective foundation for the “Justify Your Existence” conversation. 

Consider these talking points for your boss: 

  • We are committed to being a strategic value-add to this company. We acknowledge that a key part of this will lie in measuring our performance and contribution to strategic goals. 
  • To that end, we plan to adopt a modern matter management system that will allow us to:
    • Implement an intake system where we can triage, respond to, and track requests from business clients;
    • Track our work to eliminate the risk of missed deadlines and to ensure the smartest, most cost-effective resourcing;  
    • Better monitor our spending to stay on track for this year’s budget and build better budgets in the future; 
    • Access the metrics behind our work to help us forecast potential problems and assess our work by risk profile and strategic value; and
    •  Extract the highest return possible from our technology investments 
  • With this system, we can show you – in seconds – our most high-risk matters and the specific ways we are advancing the priorities set forth by you and the board.
  • In fact, we can create a custom report that addresses our risk, strategy and budget for you. 

This sounds like a big promise because it is.

But in one final piece of good news, we have created a guide to Modern Matter Management 

This field guide is designed to help Legal Departments assess their needs, evaluate software options, and craft successful implementation plans. It includes: 

  • A look at key features of modern matter management 
  • A master checklist for scouting potential solutions 
  • Guidance for approval and rollout, including an ROI calculator 
  • A sample project plan 

Although our guide also contains a list of signs you’re ready for modern matter management, here’s a big one: Anxiety over meetings with the C-suite.  

Whether it’s a “Justify Your Existence” conversation or a quarterly meeting, calm your nerves with a reliable infrastructure for your Legal Department that makes everyday work easier – and big meetings a source of pride, not panic. 

Download Modern Matter Management eBook

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