IN-HOUSE TOM: Chapter 1.1 What is an IN-HOUSE TOM?

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 blogs as they build here: IN-HOUSE TOM: INDEX

What is a target operating model?

A target operating model (TOM) links needs, resources and processes to create a model to execute a commercial organisation’s strategy to achieve its purpose.

An IN-HOUSE TOM links the legal counsel and process needs of the organisation with the resources and processes of the legal department to create a model to meet those needs to execute a commercial organisation’s strategy to achieve its purpose.

So far, so simple.

How does a TOM relate to Legal?

The problem is that each of the terms in the definition is currently unclear, subject to debate and questioning within each organisation:

  • What is the purpose of any commercial organisation?
  • What is the purpose of your organisation?
  • What is your organisation’s strategy?
  • What are the legal counsel and process needs of your organisation?
  • Who decides?
  • What is the purpose of any law department?
  • What should the strategy of any law department be?
  • What are its strategic resources?
  • What are its strategic processes to apply the resources to achieve the needs?

Here’s one set of answers, based on my 15 years’ experience working with law departments, which some readers may recognise:

  • The purpose of any commercial organisation is to make money for its shareholders
  • The purpose of our organisation is to make loads of money
  • Our organisation’s strategy is (say) growth through aggressive global acquisition
  • Our organisation needs Legal to anticipate risks and sort legal process, fast and cheaply
  • Our CEO decides, everything.
  • The purpose of any law department is to help make loads of money for the organisation without anyone going to jail
  • The strategic resources are very bright lawyers
  • The strategic processes can be boiled down to “the diving catch” by lawyers to get stuff done because “that’s what we’re trained to do”

Is this familiar?

The future

The purpose of your organisation drives its strategy which, in turn, drives how Legal responds in target operating model terms to enable that strategy.

In many organisations that response is driven by a wish to please the CEO and “the business”.

What if?

  • what if the legal profession were to help shape the purpose of any commercial organisation post-Global Financial Crash (2008) and post Covid-19 (2020)?
  • what if the law department told, not asked, the CEO what legal counsel and processes the business needed to achieve its strategy?
  • what if law departments were run like internal break-even businesses with the appropriate target operating models?

I believe that if these three “what ifs” happened then society, business and lawyers would be better served.

This book sets out how.

Ciarán Fenton

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