In-house Lawyers: How to get a seat at the table

August 28, 2023

As an in-house lawyer it is crucial to secure a seat at the decision making table in order to demonstrate your value and expertise. It goes beyond being a great legal mind - Being an exceptional lawyer is your foundation. Earning influence and a seat at the table in a legal context can take time. Continue to prove your value and adapt to evolving company needs. Here are some specific strategies for ensuring that the C-suite involves them in the decision-making process:

1. Build a Strong Legal Department:

As a head of the legal department, focus on recruiting and retaining top legal talent. A capable team enhances your department's credibility.

2. Understand the Business:

Gain a deep understanding of your company's industry, business goals, and challenges. This knowledge will help you provide relevant legal insights. Be well-versed in industry-specific regulations and trends. This knowledge will help you provide more targeted legal support.

3. Proactive Legal Guidance:

Offer proactive legal advice rather than just responding to issues. Identify potential legal risks in advance and propose strategies to mitigate them. Take initiative in identifying potential legal issues and providing proactive guidance to mitigate risks. Show that you're not just a problem-solver but also a strategic partner.

4. Align Legal with Business Goals:

Ensure that your legal department's objectives align with the company's strategic goals. This demonstrates that legal is a partner in achieving corporate success.

5. Regular Updates to Leadership:

Keep the C-suite informed about legal developments, compliance issues, and potential legal risks. Provide concise, actionable reports. Communicate complex legal matters in a clear and understandable way. Legal jargon can be confusing, so your ability to translate it into actionable advice is crucial.

6. Educate on Legal Value:

Educate senior executives about the value of legal expertise in risk management, decision-making, and protecting the company's reputation.

7. Be a Solutions Provider:

Present legal solutions, not just legal problems. Show how legal insights can enable innovative, growth-oriented strategies.

8. Participate in Strategy Discussions:

Express your interest in being involved in key decisions early in the process. Make the case for how legal expertise can contribute to better decision-making and risk management. Request involvement in strategic planning meetings and discussions and actively participate. Highlight how legal considerations are integral to strategic decisions.

9. Collaborate Across Departments:

Foster collaboration with other departments, such as finance, HR, and operations. Cross-functional teamwork enhances your role in decision-making.

10. Legal Technology and Efficiency:

Embrace legal technology to streamline processes and reduce legal costs. Demonstrating cost-efficiency can bolster your influence.

11. Ethical Leadership:

Uphold the highest ethical standards in your legal department and communicate the importance of ethical conduct throughout the organisation. Always prioritise ethical conduct and compliance – the ongoing viability of the business will depend on it.

12. Continuous Learning:

Stay updated on legal trends and industry-specific regulations to remain a knowledgeable resource.

13. Networking and Relationship Building:

Establish connections and build relationships with key decision-makers in the company and industry peers. Understand their needs and challenges and offer legal solutions that align with the company's goals. Attend industry events and conferences.

14. Measure and Communicate Success:

Quantify the impact of legal contributions, such as cost savings, risk reduction, or successful legal outcomes. Share these metrics with the C-suite.

15. Seek Feedback:

Request feedback from the C-suite on the legal department's performance and responsiveness to their needs. Use this feedback for continuous improvement.

By implementing these strategies, in-house lawyers can demonstrate their importance as strategic partners in the organisation, increasing the likelihood of being actively involved in the decision-making process by the C-suite. In-house lawyers play a critical role in advising their organisations, and by following these steps, you can position yourself as an invaluable legal resource and trusted advisor to your company's leadership.

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