The perception of in-house legal departments as insular and obstructive can impede their ability to best serve the business. And while perceptions often don’t reflect reality, repositioning the legal department as a valued, equal and constructive part of the organization will have a dramatic effect on both the lawyers’ job satisfaction and overall efficiency in the business.
Just ask Kikelomo Lawal, deputy general counsel at Interac, Canada’s national debit card network. For the past six years, Lawal has overseen Interac’s legal, compliance and regulations department. While her team of 10 lawyers, law clerks, compliance officers and regulations writers were doing great work, she also recognized there were opportunities for better communication between legal and the business units to improve efficiencies in workflow.
Frustrated with the lack of clear and concise strategies on how legal departments attack a rebranding exercise, Lawal decided she would need to develop her own.
“I wrote down all my thoughts — concrete steps, misperceptions, misconceptions — all those things I thought we could get some traction on,” she explained. “I gave my team the handwritten document, and got their input on the content and on specific things I was asking the department to commit to.”
The framework included a set of guiding principles such as, “Never let someone leave with the perception that you’ve put sand in their gears; they must know and believe that you have — or can get — oil to make things flow better,” and new service commitments to the business units around guaranteed turnaround times for drafting non-disclosure agreements, regulation interpretations and consulting services agreements.
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