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Why American GCs should focus on expanding the role of allied professionals

Posted by: Clare Butler 13/02/17
In recent years, a number of professionals have begun to challenge the use of the term ‘non-legal’, which many claim creates a hierarchy reminiscent of those in Wall Street practices and undermines collaboration. The role of allied professionals was discussed at length at the annual meeting of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), with a number of prominent GCs offering advice on how to delegate legal work and utilize the knowledge of so called ‘non-legals’.

According to Lucy Bassli, Assistant General Counsel of Microsoft Corporation, a good first step towards facilitating greater collaboration is to abandon the term ‘non-legal’ altogether. Rising cost containment pressures faced by many corporate legal departments have led lawyers to rely on allied professionals to get more done with less.

According to a recent in house efficiency report from Thomas Reuters, ‘The keys to a more effective legal department’, legal department operations (LDO) professionals are increasingly integral members of the legal team. The report highlighted the growing relevance of LDO staff saying that they ‘represent a meaningful opportunity for departments to drive greater efficiencies. It’s a way to empower in-house attorneys to spend more time on the actual practice of law.’

While it’s true that the work of LDOs and other allied professionals requires greater supervision from senior in-house professionals as opposed to qualified lawyers, the gains in terms of efficiency should encourage GCs to expand their roles where possible. Through training and the creation of templates, allied professionals can complete work in other fields, such as contract management review and compliance work.

As financial pressures continue to increase for in house teams, and companies continue to review their portfolio of external counsel, GCs need to focus on fostering greater collaboration within their departments, and dropping the divisive ‘non-legal’ label is certainly a step in the right direction.
Tagged In: General counsel, USA
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