Thomson Reuters

Top 10 ways to run your legal department like a business unit

Once a trainee has finished their legal education and completed a training contract, they can expect a prosperous and satisfying career. But one thing that many law students are not taught is how to run, or succeed in, a business. Law firms have famously struggled with marrying the business of law with the practice of law, but less talked about is how in-house legal departments, for the same reasons, often struggle with integrating into their companies as a collaborative and effective unit of the business. To run like a business unit, it is important that your entire legal department has a culture of collaboration, an understanding of your company’s business and how to demonstrate your department’s success within the business. The following is a list of top ways that will help both you and your legal department integrate with your company to function more like a business unit:

1.Manage your department’s workload. As with any business unit in a company, an initial determination of how to allocate resources, evaluate performance and establish success can’t be made unless the totality of the work in your department is captured and understood. This may seem like an easy task, but without a systematic way to track internal projects and what outside counsel is working on, a legal department — big or small — can lose track of all the legal work being done. Once you know what work is being done and by whom, it will enable you to start prioritising projects and allocate resources accordingly to enable you to be as efficient with your workforce as possible.

2.Know your spending and use budgets. The most basic question a stakeholder can ask any business unit is ‘what is your spend?’ Whether it’s the last fiscal year, this fiscal year to date or this quarter, every business unit should know the answer to this question. However, ask a legal department and the most common answer you will hear is: ‘I have no idea.’ …

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