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Creating a conundrum
Rob Booth, General Counsel (GC) and Company Secretary of The Crown Estate joined our recent LexisNexis Aspire networking and professional group facilitated by Sophie Gould, to share both his personal experience, advice and top tips as GC and CoSec and introduce an exciting new initiative led by Rob in the legal profession – the #bioniclawyer project.
Rob started by providing an overview of his role within the Crown Estate: primarily, that he is responsible for one of the largest sovereign wealth funds - mostly made up of property assets. When he was first made GC, he was left feeling unsure of what to do and, when asked by his superiors what his goal as GC would be, he replied that he wanted to ‘…deliver a sustainable competitive advantage for The Crown Estate…’.
This statement, although naïve, taught him the merits of starting with a purpose in any role – but he conceded that this should perhaps be with slightly more forethought than he had delivered his own statement! This impulsively-produced purpose transpired to be an idea that has been written about widely and provided an excellent starting point for Rob in his new role.
The next stage, however, was working out how to harness this purpose. Rob explained that the best way to do so is to find the value that it can produce; every purpose should be creating value, and sometimes this can be recognised by being conscious of the value being created around you.
Rob mentioned how, before he qualified into law, he studied science, and much of his leadership strategy was motivated by a desire to make things similarly formulaic. This was demonstrated by the ‘Value Equation’ he had created, in the form of the below diagram
This lays out some of the types of value that can be produced by a purpose within the legal industry.
Further, this value can be quantified by the outperformance element of the formula. Outperformance needs to remain sustainable and that can only be a realistic outcome if the process is also a ‘learning engine’.
To demonstrate this engine, Rob produced another diagram that he referred to colloquially as ‘the knowledge butterfly’ (see below).
Used in context, this model shows how well an organisation can learn from its own process, including by how their customers are affected (known as the system research). The antenna of the butterfly is the expert input that can be provided externally from an organisation or team which can also feed in.
Rob emphasised that the next stage in measuring outperformance is optimising it and asking how performance can be most effective. To demonstrate differences in efficiency, Rob highlighted the two central types of legal work: Gold box work and Silver box work.
Gold box work is usually chaotic and complex and involves interacting with law with lots of grey areas. These problems are usually unpredictable and those involved need to use dynamic strategies to handle their complexity.
Silver box work is more administrative and problem-solving: it is usually more predictable and involves efficient problem-solving. Less time is spent in this area and it tends to be more amenable to process.
Gold box work poses the most problems and therefore it is vital they are tackled in the most efficient manner. They need not just diverse groups of people coming together, but the best possible combination of people combining to solve the problem. This optimum combination, Rob said, is what he has termed ‘the Bionic Lawyer’.
To learn more on optimising performace and maximising value and find out what the Bionic Lawyer project is, have a read of part two.
Join Aspire today
Aspire is free to join and open to all in-house lawyers in the early stages of their legal career. Join today.
Additional recommended reading:
Boosting quality, productivity and transparency within the legal team - This Practice Note provides practical guidance and tips for in-house lawyers on boosting quality, productivity (by way of a better coordination of work effort and allocation) and transparency within their legal teams
Measuring and reporting performance of the legal team - this Practice Note considers how to measure and report the performance of the in-house legal team in an effective and meaningful way
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