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Hans Albers, chief of staff and associate general counsel in international legal services at Juniper Networks, and president of ACC Europe, discusses how legal departments can approach staffing following the recent publication of The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) 2019 Global Legal Department Benchmarking Report.
Legal staffing is one of the key areas of legal benchmarking. It helps clarify whether your team is understaffed, overstaffed, optimally balanced between lawyers and other professionals, and properly funded.
GCs often ask me for more data on staffing as this is one of the key questions they deal with when setting budgets and strategic planning for their departments. The most important metrics include:
• number of legal department staff, by position
• staff by position as a percentage of total legal department staff
• staff by position as a percentage of total company employees
• the lawyer to staff ratio
• legal department staff standardised by company revenue
From salary to benefits, staffing is one of the largest costs for a corporate legal
department. Thus, it’s crucial to make sure the department has the right number of staff. Legal departments also want to make sure they have the right combination of staff—lawyers, paralegals, legal operations professionals, administrators—to tackle their unique workload. Staffing metrics provide the data needed to make sure the department is operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.
That’s a challenging question to answer, since the value of legal staff rarely makes an observable impact on overall revenue. In-house lawyers are critical to strategy, but they don’t produce commodities, or sell them, or invest capital. Their value is hard to quantify.
But the fact that it’s hard to quantify doesn’t mean that it’s not important—on the contrary. ACC does include lawyers per US$1bn in company revenue as one of its legal department metrics, which means that a company can compare this metric with those of other companies of similar size, law department size, industry, etc.
An inadequately staffed legal department won’t be able to serve its clients well, keep up with the velocity of business, avoid potentially expensive risks, or operate in a proactive, rather than reactive state. So, departments will want to maintain optimal staff levels to best contribute to the business.
Benchmarking is so important because there are plenty of best practices for law departments
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Louisa leads marketing for the in-house legal community at LexisNexis. She joined the dedicated in-house team at LexisNexis four years ago and has a passion for driving and facilitating initiatives which are customer-focused at their heart. Her vision is to support in-house counsel succeed in their fast-evolving role based on deep insight, data analysis and best practice gathered across the in-house community.
Prior to her in-house focused role, Louisa led the marketing for the bar and mid-market private practice sectors as well as product marketing lead for LexisPSL – LexisNexis’ cloud based, practical guidance and legal research software solution.
She brings 20 years’ marketing experience both client and agency side, specialising in B2B marketing in the Legal, TMT (Telco, Media and Technology) and Financial Services industries. In both South Africa, Europe and the UK.
Louisa is also an active member on the LexisNexis Gender Equality Matters (GEM) steering committee and is involved with the Families at LexisNexis Group which brings together, supports and lobbies for change those with an interest in balancing the challenges of work and family.
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