I’m writing a book with the working title: IN-HOUSE TOM: a new target operating model for law departments – initially as a series of blogs.
You can follow the full index of the blogs as they build here: IN-HOUSE TOM: INDEX
Chapter 1.8 Mind the gaps between law firms, departments and the “C-Suite”
The last, of seven weaknesses, in the current in-house target operating model are the communication gaps between law firms, law departments and the “C-Suite”.
A law department’s target operating model is to meet the legal counsel and process needs of “the business” using the law department’s strategic resources by applying the law department’s strategic processes. (IN-HOUSE TOM)
A commercial law firm’s (or practice) target operating model is to meet the law department’s out-of-house needs using the law firm’s strategic resources by applying the law firm’s strategic processes. (LAW FIRM TOM)
A “C-Suite’s” target operating model is to meet the needs of its customers using the strategic resources of the business by applying the strategic processes of the business. (C-SUITE TOM)
One of the “C-Suite’s” strategic resources is its relationship with its law department.
One of a law department’s strategic resources is its out-of-house relationships.
One of a law firm’s strategic resources is its in-house relationship.
All three TOMs are, therefore, interdependent on the quality of the relationships between them. If these relationships are dysfunctional then all three suffer potential existential risks.
Three dysfunctional relationships
The relationship between the law department and the “C-Suite” is dysfunctional for the reasons set out earlier:
The relationship between the law firm and the law department is dysfunctional for three reasons
- Law departments won’t let law firms near the “C-Suite”
- Law firms don’t/can’t help law departments fix their relationship with the “C-Suite”; they ignore the implications to all three TOMs of the dangerously uncut “umbilical cord” between law firms and law departments, illustrated by the in-out-of-house nomenclature, not present in any other function in “the business”.
- The “C-Suite” is blissfully unaware of all the nuances of this situation and the resulting ticking time bomb under its TOM.
There’s no “elephant in the room” because there’s no room
Apart from in-house conference organisers asking token CEOs “to tell us what the business needs from Legal” in-house lawyers never get together in any meaningful way and in large numbers with the “C-Suite” at conferences or in debate on, or offline.
Ditto law firms and law departments.
Ditto law firms, law departments and the “C-Suite”.
There’s no “elephant in the room” because there’s no room in which these three interdependent groups meet, ever.
There can be only one reason why this unhealthy and dangerous stasis persists: money.
Until now, making money trumped any reasonable argument about any problem in business/society.
That’s about to change. All the signs are that the sleeping giant that is society is about to wake up and make very loud and angry demands of business in how it is serving society’s needs.
Tumbrils will roll in the direction of the “C-Suite”.
That’s where the money is.
Law firm’s and law departments should get into a room with the C-Suite before it’s too late.
By “too late” I mean too late for lawyers – in-house and out – to prevent society over reacting and taking draconian action against them.
In Chapter 2 I will set out a new target operating model for law departments which I hope will address this danger.
It’s time to close the gaps. And time’s running out.
Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind wrote in The Future of the Professions (Oxford University Press, 2015) that “the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems”.
I disagree and five years on there’s no sign of their prediction coming to pass.
The opposite I believe will happen.
Philip Wood QC former head of Allen & Overy Global Law Intelligence Unit, visiting professor and author of The Fall of the Priests and the Rise of the Lawyers wrote in Modern Legal Practice (January 2018) wrote:
“If we were speaking from the point of view of common sense, we could say…that we on the planet have a duty to survive and…we need moral rules, and that legal systems are by far the biggest, the oldest and the most efficient code of morality that we have. This is notwithstanding all of their faults…Yet my experience is that large numbers of people do not go along with these propositions and greet them with incredulity…”
Incredible as it may seem lawyers, as Officers of the Court, are the closest we now have to reliable moral protectors of society.
If you are expecting them to be “dismantled” any time soon, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Society won’t allow it.