Could you rate your relationships?

I’ve been writing a number of digests for in-house counsel.  In my first, I asked, “are you a lawyer or a business person first?”. 

 Today, I ask you to consider this:

If, today, you were to analyse your top 10 to 20 core business relationships, how many are in trouble and how many are heading that way?

Using a RAG method, how many would be amber or red? In my experience, in-house counsel have at least one red relationship and several ambers at any time.

As in-house counsel your primary objective is to provide pro-active input into the management of legal risks, in a context of consistently poor economic conditions, a more complex business and regulatory environment and the need to ensure the smooth management and operation of the legal team.

In this context, fraught relationships are a drain on your time but they are never easy to turn around. When the money and the strategy are in place what goes wrong are the relationships.

My experience working with in-house counsel is that once they understand that they can reframe their relationships to create win-win outcomes rather than the win-lose outcomes they were trained in a Law school, then these relationships can be converted to green. 

So how would you rate your current relationships?


In your role as in-house counsel, are you primarily a lawyer or primarily a business person?

I asked this question at a workshop I led for The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) last month.

Some bristled initially at the question. It seemed they felt that the answer was obvious: lawyers first, no question. But as the debate developed it became clear that old certainties are changing.

My challenge was: If you take the “corporate shilling”, do you not have a duty to help grow the business first, within the law, like every other employee? There was again some initial pushback on this and, it seemed to me, genuine discomfort at the dichotomy of gamekeeper versus poacher, as they might see it.

My view is that in-house counsel and the business are better served if they join the management team fully, just as the CFO does. He or she has to be as much of “a cop” as in-house counsel.

What do you think?  Please join the debate by posting your comments below.

You might also like to watch my video interview with Paul Gilbert, CEO LBC Wise Counsel where I discuss these issues in more detail.