Redefining the role of in-house lawyer as strategic business partner. An interview with Matt Redding, GC at Six Degrees Group

 

As business needs continue to shift and face ever-increasing challenges and opportunities, so has the expectation around what the legal function is looked for to deliver to its organisation. Once, the value of in-house counsel rested predominantly on delivering expert, astute advice timeously – at an affordable cost. But as Matt Redding, General Counsel from Six Degrees Group explains, the role has significantly evolved. Today, in-house counsel must demonstrate their value in more innovative ways.

In this interview with Lucy Glyn, Market Development Director at Lexis Nexis, Matt talks about how the role of the in-house lawyer has changed since his legal career began in 2000, and the key areas where lawyers should better align their focus towards business needs to show their worth.

“I’ve seen a shift in the way businesses perceive the legal team”

From Matt’s perspective, in-house counsel must embrace innovation in their role. He emphasises that the legal department must have a dual focus - actual delivery and showing that the value of what you deliver translates into tangible business benefit. Moreover, first and foremost, this value needs to transcend simply a cost-saving benefit.

His belief is that this can be done in different ways.

At a basic level, and what is considered to be the more traditional approach, legal can deliver costs savings against external lawyers. Although easily demonstrated, Matt explains that this benefit can often be taken for granted by businesses. 

However, in his opinion successful in-house counsel have learnt to take a more strategic approach and align their legal responsibilities with the business needs to deliver a better quality commercial outcome. In fact, he puts forward the case that the best type of demonstrable value is where the input of legal directly results in delivering revenue and extra cash to the business. This could be through exploiting regulatory opportunities, identifying ways to work in industries you know about which the rest of the business does not, or even influencing the law.

“…you must be alive to the business case and the numbers sitting behind it because that is how the business thinks”

Matt agrees that there has been a shift from just supporting the business to also advancing the business when it comes to demonstrating value and being an effective strategic business partner. 

He challenges in-house counsel to think about law and risk in a way that the rest of the business thinks about it, that is in the context of numbers and finding solutions. And again, he believes there are several ways to achieve this from considering an insurance product to not even pursuing a legal solution if there is a faster and better way to the desired result. 

Similarly, he asserts that it is critical in-house lawyers get involved in understanding business and commercial risk and how it translates into legal concepts to effectively align legal risk with the risk appetite of the business. 

He highlights that taking this approach both helps with developing one’s own strategic thinking and can benefit your career by raising your profile within the organisation.

In closing Matt shares his  personal take on how to succeed in-house.

"It’s really important to get involved but stay true to yourself. Seize the opportunity and do a really good job”

Watch the full interview.

 


 

Additional recommended reading

  • Aligning the legal team to the business - This Practice Note provides an overview of the importance of aligning the legal team to the business along with suggested tips to help with this alignment
  • Strategic alignment of the in-house team—checklist - An overview of four tests which can be applied to create an alignment strategy for an in-house legal team to enable it to do the right work at the right time and in the right way for the business
  • Working well with other functions on regulatory compliance - This Practice Note sets out ways in which lawyers can work effectively with other functions within the business to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • The need for a strategic approach - This Practice Note provides a high-level summary for in-house legal teams of three key elements which give context to the need for a strategic approach to the management of in-house teams. It also sets out some indicators to establish whether a legal team is on track to taking a more strategic approach in its work.
  • Understanding your organisation's culture - This Practice Note provides an introduction to organisational culture and ways to go about finding out more about your organisation’s culture so you are more likely to explore areas and ways in which you can have an impact.
  • Global collaboration - This Practice Note outlines the main areas an in-house lawyer needs to consider when planning cross-border projects or deals, including logistics, language, trust, negotiation and teamwork.

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