Corporate Legal teams tend to resemble the Law Firms General Counsels started their careers in. Teams are built with the best in-house Lawyers their Legal budgets can afford, and experience that aligns with the industry is looked upon favourably. This approach makes perfect sense for a full-time model where Legal work is steady, though this is rarely the case.
Any General Counsel will tell you that the demands on their Legal function ebb and flow. One quarter might see your Legal team tackling a large project that requires specialised Legal attention. The next, your Lawyers might find themselves trapped under a mountain of repetitive, administrative, ‘business-as-usual’ Legal work. Sometimes they might just have less to do.
By relying on a stagnant team of in-house Lawyers to cope with these fluctuations in workload, GCs run the risk of stretching their team past their limits, or underutilizing extremely talented Lawyers.
The associated risks of lawyer burnout (at one end) and de-motivation (at the other) are clear if your legal function isn’t resourced right, but there isn’t always a simple answer to the ‘when should I hire an additional Lawyer for my in-house team?’ question. And if you don’t have a good answer, how on earth are you going to convince your CFO to assign you budget for additional headcount?
It’s becoming clear to GCs that fixed legal resourcing is putting their businesses - their ‘clients’ - at a competitive disadvantage, and they're seeking a better way.
The Value Now VS Value Later conundrum
Legal functions have traditionally been viewed as cost-centres rather than value drivers, and when it comes to hiring, General Counsel are often forced to compromise between value now and value later. Do you hire a lawyer for the job that needs to be done immediately, or for the skill set that you believe will be most useful in the long term?
Recruit a more experienced Lawyer and you run the risk of underutilizing them once your project is complete. Alternatively, onboarding a less experienced in-house Lawyer or paralegal runs the risk that they’re not suitable to manage a more complex Legal issue that might arise later on.
How to dynamically resource your team with in-house Legal secondees
Dynamic Legal resourcing is the solution more and more GCs are employing to effectively manage their fluctuating workloads, employing specialised secondee lawyers for periods as short as six weeks, or as long as two years.
Specialised Legal service providers like Plexus Engage match highly trained in-house Lawyers with Australia’s top corporate Legal functions, helping them respond to the fluctuating capacity and capability demands faced by in-house Legal teams.
The proven, flexible engagement model is designed to meet varied needs, including level, type of expertise and volume of work.
Like the modern Corporate Legal model, it’s only been more recently that Legal functions have truly realised the benefits of partnering with specialised in-house Legal Secondment providers rather than sourcing their secondees from Law Firms.
While Law Firm secondees are certainly very talented Lawyers, they do not necessarily have the skill set and experience required to effectively manage Legal support and risk from within the business, for the business.
Top quality in-house secondees have fine-tuned their ability to manage Legal support and the demands of a business over their time in a variety of Legal functions. They know how and why Corporate Legal teams function differently to Law Firms, and are more ready to draw on experience from previous secondments to immediately add value.