Corporate Law Functions Can’t Keep Up w/ Soaring Demands, So Legal Has to Scale Its Capacity: Why Lawyers Can’t Manage Scaling — Part III of IV


The Point

1. Corporate law functions perennially experience chronic, gaping shortfalls between the resources they need to do their job and what they actually possess.

2. Without an unlimited budget, a corporate law function must therefore scale its resources to keep up with soaring legal and regulatory demands.

3. To get at-scale impact, Legal needs disciplined systems and processes by which its people work together to accomplish what no single one of them could do on their own.

4. The disciplined systems and processes required for at-scale impact need a proven executive in charge — not an individual whose career has been limited to law practice.

This Matters to Your Business

Assigning a proven executive who has never practiced law to run a corporate law function violates an article of faith universally venerated among lawyers: licensed attorneys, and only licensed attorneys, are qualified to run a corporate law function.

That’s what U.S. corporations have done for the past half century, with the increasing movement of attorneys out of law firms into positions in-house. In the decades since I graduated from law school I have never seen a single exception to this sacrosanct rule: only lawyers are allowed to manage Legal.

Because …

Yet, with lawyers at the helm, Legal has not been able to scale its capabilities, according to corporate lawyer and practice consultant Bruce MacEwan:

“The data tells a story of our:

  • Responding to the growth of scale by throwing more lawyers at it;
  • The increasingly exposed inadequacy of that approach in the face of growing regulatory and legal complexity;
  • And the exhaustion of every conventional technique and mechanism that corporate legal departments have at their disposal for containing the cost of the relentlessly growing workload.”

“We Have a Scal(ability) Problem”, Adam Smith, Esq.

As legal and regulatory demands on business continue to increase, without apparent limit or end, corporate law functions must keep up. Otherwise, compliance failures risk moral, monetary, and reputational catastrophes. But in-house and law firm attorneys’ go-to move of “throwing more lawyers” at these increased demands is financially unsustainable. Instead, at-scale impacts are required. These at-scale impacts require disciplined management. And disciplined management means proven executives — not general counsels or other attorneys whose experiences have been confined to practicing law.


Part I of IV: Solving The More-w/-Less Dilemma

Part II of IV: C-Suite Must Say What it Wants from Legal

Part IV of IV: How the C-Suite Can Achieve a Re-Set

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