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At this year's Law Society In-house Division annual conference, Sophie Gould (Head of in-house at LexisNexis) and Dr Paul Hughes (Cranfield School of Management) delivered a roundtable presentation sharing best practice and practical advice on how in-house lawyers can increase their strategic impact, gain influence in their organisation and add more value to the wider business.
With so many demands on an in-house lawyer’s time, it can be difficult to know where to focus, particularly as there is always the risk of being swept along by day-to-day events. A solid starting point is to understand which activities create value for organisations. Our research identified four types of in-house activities and their perceived value to the wider organisation:
With more focused investigation, it was clear that not all in-house activities were considered equal by the wider organisation. How this in turn relates to the respective in-house lawyer’s levels of influence and impact can be seen in the graph below.
It is understood, therefore, that activities which supported organisational aims, eg protecting the organisation’s brand and its reputation, added more value than those which, for example, simply reduced the cost of in-house legal advice.
Intention was also identified as a key factor; parties need to clearly articulate the link between the in-house activity and the value it added to the organisation for it to be meaningfully impactful.
‘There is a greater call than ever for those in-house to be playing a strategic role in their organisation… today more of our GC members are on boards or in positions that report direct to the CEO.’ Christina Blacklaws, deputy vice president, the Law Society
But it goes further than clarity and intention. In-house lawyers need to have the capability and the willingness to lead to make a significant impact and play a strategic role within their organisations.
The psychological concept of ‘leadership mindsets’, as put forth by Dr Jane Trinder-Randle, is extremely useful here. It is a classification system, a framework within which different types of mindsets are outlined – the idea being that once you understand your own ‘mindset’, it is easier to tailor the approach you take to
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Since joining LexisNexis in 2009 Sophie has worked on developing our legal and business content for the in-house legal community. She also runs various networking and mentoring groups for in-house lawyers and works with schools to promote social mobility within the legal profession.
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