Network Rail Infrastructure general counsel of routes Dan Kayne talks to The Lawyer about innovation in legal services and the balance between developing commercial awareness and legal skills ahead of his session at the In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference.

Dan Kayne
Dan Kayne

What does it mean to be innovative when it comes to legal services?

Innovation is about making a positive difference – seeing an opportunity to improve something and making that change happen. Each and every one of us has the ability to be innovative in how we work.

It doesn’t have to be a wholesale change or a ‘Eureka’ moment – it is much more likely to be evolutionary in nature – this applies to legal services as much as any other industry.

In the Network Rail legal team we have embedded a programme of continuous improvement to enable us to deliver a better service to our customers every day – that is real, tangible innovation which we and our customers gain great benefit from.

In your opinion, how can in-house lawyers and private-practice best work together to drive efficiency and deliver value?

It is essential that working relationships are treated as partnerships rather than simply a buyer and supplier of legal services. This means that the parties too in the relationship – like any other partnership – need to be open, honest and transparent with each other about what success means to them both financially and from a service perspective.

With that in mind, law firms and in house teams can jointly develop a ‘win-win’ arrangement whilst benefiting the ultimate recipient of their services – the business. Efficiency isn’t just about doing more for less. It is about finding the right balance between money, time and quality. In legal services quicker invariably means cheaper. If the service is delivered right (quality) first time (speed) – savings then follow.

What should the balance between focusing on developing your commercial awareness and focusing on developing your legal skills be?

Every lawyer needs to have a sufficient level of technical competence to gain credibility with business leaders. However, most organisations don’t need to aspire to having the very best technical in-house lawyers advising them.

What they need is a very capable set of lawyers who have the ability to draw on their practical knowledge and legal experience to help the business achieve its aims and drive value for their customers. Setting out the legal advice will only get you so far – understanding what your customers really want and how your advice can help drive the business forward is the key.

To achieve that it requires an understanding of the organisation’s objectives, a pragmatic approach and the flexibility to be able to deliver on a range of services to meet customer needs.

Describe the In-house Counsel as Business Partner conference in 3 words

Chance to change.

Would would you have done if you hadn’t become a lawyer?

Professional golfer – not ruling it out yet, although still have a ‘fairway’ to go….

Network Rail Infrastructure general counsel of routes Dan Kayne is a speaker at the upcoming In-house Counsel as Business Partner event, which is taking place in London on 7-9 November. Book your place and find out more information about the conference here.