How to Optimize Your In-House Legal Department Structure
General Counsel are operating in a new environment: One with bigger risks, more reputational repercussions, greater expectations of the function, and less budget with which to address it all. Find out why General Counsel may benefit from following the ideal Core-Bench-Firm model for their in-house legal department structure.
A New Model for Legal Resourcing: Core-Bench-Firm (CBF)
The ideal legal paradigm is a three-legged stool, consisting of a core, bench, and firm.
1. The Legal Department
- A lean full-time team of legal talent is used to leverage internal enterprise knowledge, provide appropriate managerial scale and handle core competency work.
- Depending on the enterprise, the legal team is organized by region, division or practice area.
2. A Virtual Bench
- The core legal team is supported, almost entirely, by a bench of trusted, on-demand lawyers for expertise aligned to emerging risks, workload surges and law firm management.
- This bench/agile layer serves as a flexible extension of the in-house legal team.
- Critically, the bench is curated, built and onboarded before specific needs arise, according to subject matter expertise selected to address anticipated risks, thereby creating a standby team with existing institutional knowledge ready to ramp up at any time to provide legal support.
- This bench can be supplemented by additional attorneys, as work requires or as unexpected risks emerge.
- The right bench can also help keep the day-to-day legal operations running while the core team focuses on deal execution.
3. The Law Firm
In this model the law firm has limited use-cases, which include:
- Litigation: Or more precisely, bet-the-company litigation matters.
- Enterprise benchmarking: To learn industry norms and emerging standards. These are issues where law firms have unique cross-industry/cross-enterprise expertise. For example, to identify general corporate policies on return to work, new labor and employment issues related to vaccine status, bigger issues specific to indemnification and insurance.
- Exceptional matters: Matters beyond the abilities of even the most robust internal legal department. This bucket includes complex M&A deal structuring and higher risk activities that require an army of legal minds.
- Issues that exceed the expertise or scale of the virtual bench: Herein lies the value of the agile layer. In the old paradigm, everything that can't be staffed internally gets sent out to law firms from the start. In this new model, expertise from the bench is tasked with handling the legal matters. That agile lawyer (or lawyers) can often handle the issue entirely - but that is not the only value he or she brings. Sometimes that lawyer can handle a matter through near completion, but then understands the needs and nuances requiring specific law firm expertise. That latter-stage and more finely tuned conversation with a law firm is far more informed, focused and valuable than it would have otherwise been from the start, which means lower costs and less managerial burden because the agile lawyer is participating in the law firm education process.
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