At Interim Legal, we benefit from speaking with professionals in the Swiss legal services industry. Given our focus on supporting in-house legal departments to become more flexible and efficient in the solving of legal work, we tend to speak with legal professionals who either already have this experience or are seeking to partner with professionals in this area.
Our conversations have revealed the following skills and experiences are important for in-house legal professionals to succeed in 2021:
1. Independent Legal Judgement
This skill can encompass a combination of traits and areas of expertise. Generally defined, it is the ability to offer competent and commercially aware legal analysis under pressure and often when acting as the sole voice representing the company’s legal interests. Here are some of the characteristics and abilities defining this skill:
a. Legal Competency: Legal experience in a specific area of practice and the ability to competently assess issues within an assigned remit is the basis upon which all in-house legal counsel are measured. Increasingly, competency in law is but one of the skills in-house legal counsel need to possess.
b. Integrity: This is the trait we hear about the most about when speaking about the importance of independent legal judgement for in-house legal professionals. Individuals possessing this characteristic are able to accurately apply legal analysis to an issue against the pressures of business or competing interests. It also defines the ability to be independent and solidifies the in-house profession as the steward of risk management.
c. Commercial Awareness: An ability to understand the particular needs of a business to effectively tailor legal advice. This skill requires an awareness of the underlying business processes and values, and how the legal advice may affect the business in meeting its goals.
2. Proactive and Open Communication
The ability to foster proactive and open communication is an important part of in-house legal counsel’s toolkit. This approach enables stakeholders both inside and outside of legal to share information pertinent to the legal decision-making process. It also establishes trust and allows for greater collaboration within the organization, thereby integrating the legal department with all areas of the business. A simple first step in representing this skill is to break down complex legal advice into language that can be understood by non-legal personnel.
3. Interdepartmental Collaboration
Many success stories in-house legal counsel shared with us in achieving greater efficiency came from a willingness to collaborate with other departments within the business. For example, the application of processes and technology from other departments often improved legal operations and led to innovation. Furthermore, an open-minded approach broke down silos and enabled greater collaboration between legal and the business.
As the profession of in-house counsel goes through greater disruption and transition, a change in mindset to adapt via an openness to technology and process-driven approach becomes increasingly important.