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In-House Legal Department Management: 4 Tips to Help Lead your Legal Team to Success

, , | September 13, 2022 | By | 3 min read
In-House Legal Department Management Tips

For various reasons ranging from predictability to career progression, more and more lawyers are shifting from firm to in-house positions. In fact, 44% of attorneys that left their previous roles moved to an in-house position, according to a Bloomberg study — and now they’re finding that their roles, responsibilities, and expectations are vastly different and require more than just their legal knowledge. 

Whether you’re creating a new team from the ground up, or are taking over a department, management can be challenging. Here are four management tips to keep in mind if you recently shifted to an in-house role:

 

1. Change is Inevitable

Whether it’s onboarding a new colleague, switching to a fully remote workplace, or implementing a new software, one thing remains consistent: change. Even for leadership teams, change is often beyond control but how you react to said changes will determine whether the change becomes a catalyst for growth and innovation or becomes another obstacle. 

Being adaptable is crucial to remain competitive, especially when large-scale changes occur. When you're navigating uncertainty and making difficult decisions, continue to focus on the long-term goals of your organization and align your decisions with the future roadmap. 

Much like change, risk is also unavoidable but you can minimize risk by educating yourself and your team on relevant current events, emerging laws, and your competitors’ initiatives. Plus, if you implement the right workflows and technology early on, you'll be able to respond better to changes and be more efficient in the process.

 

2. Share the Load 

Legal departments already have a finite amount of resources, and with the increase in workload and expectations, it’s not getting any easier. 

According to a 2022 Gartner study, 92% of general counsel find themselves spending less time on strategic matters than they would like, and 25% state that they spend time on work that could be completed by someone else. The lesson? Trying to do it all on your own dramatically slows down processes and makes you less productive. 

Whether you're a team of one or a team of 500, it's important to instill workflows with your colleagues that allow you to prioritize your tasks and prevent overwhelm when something new gets added to your plate. If possible, delegate the less risky, high-volume tasks such as NDAs and MSAs to other team members so you can focus on other priorities.

When implementing these workflows and setting up your department, dedicate some time to creating standardized templates and a central location for frequently used resources and knowledge. Setting your team up for success early on will result in faster turnaround times and fewer questions in the future, and ultimately, empower your team to tackle certain tasks without the need for your direct input. 

If adding to your team isn’t an option, explore other technology solutions or take a step back and assess how you’re using and optimizing all of your existing tools. Many mundane tasks can, and should, be automated using tools that your organization already has, such as scheduling meetings, time tracking, and creating documents. By automating these tasks, you’ll be able to spend more time doing impactful work. 

 

3. Listen & Trust 

Building strong relationships takes both time and effort, but boosts productivity in the long run. Provide your team with structure and guidance, but also give them the freedom to excel. You, as a manager, must trust that the people on your team will do their assigned tasks, and your colleagues should feel empowered by you to speak freely and make individual, yet informed, decisions. 

Communication is a two-way street and requires just as much listening as it does talking. So, listen to your employees and colleagues being accessible and open with your colleagues is extremely important as you begin building the framework for a successful team. 

Schedule regular one-on-one meetings with your team members. Leave these meetings open to discuss anything that’s on their minds and encourage them to contribute ideas, provide feedback, or discuss items that they haven’t had other time to discuss.

Having consistent check-ins not only opens the door for collaboration and resolving conflicts before they escalate, but also makes team members feel more valued, involved, and engaged. 

 

4. Your Team's Success is Your Success

As a manager, your team's performance depends on your ability to lead them in the right direction. Set well-defined goals that align everyone and everything within your department; reassess priorities frequently, and keep improving your relationships to help your team reach their full potential.

Depending on the size of your team, you may not have eyes on every task or initiative in your department. Meeting with your team frequently (or referencing other software) and setting up trackable objectives will keep performance on track without adding too much to your workload.

As a manager, you’re also responsible for boosting morale, confidence, and motivation. One of the best ways to do this is by recognizing your team’s successes — big and small. Provide timely, positive feedback on a regular basis to show your team that their efforts truly matter and are making a difference, especially if you’re working in a remote environment.

And remember, no one is perfect. Your team will have varying levels of knowledge across certain areas, so encourage your team to ask questions and have a predetermined time set up where they can freely do this. Share your knowledge with your team and guide them to the correct answers and processes so that they can continue to excel and hit performance goals.

 

Check out our blog for more information on contract management and how an AI-based CLM solution can help.