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    General Counsel challenges how to keep afloat in choppy waters

    General Counsel Challenges: Staying Afloat in Choppy Waters

    The role of today’s general counsel requires a diverse skill set that enables them to advise senior business management team members on legal strategy. With business, legal and industry-specific knowledge, they are a go-to advisor within the company, especially when navigating challenging situations. Their main goal is to ensure that IP assets are sufficiently protected so that they contribute to the growth and success of a business.

    As a member of the corporate executive board, the role of general counsel has a high level of responsibility. Often they are a key advisor to CxO-level employees, which means networking, communication and leadership are necessary soft skills along with the right emotional intelligence to deal with the politics of an organization. In order to capably execute their duties, a general counsel must be able to provide unbiased legal advice that serves the best interests of the business in a manner that resonates through all levels of the company. Even during the best of times, making a positive impact on a business is challenging for a general counsel since they serve many areas of a company.

    One of the most important roles of a general counsel is defining corporate governance or corporate social responsibility (CSR) principles of the company. In this way, the diverse contributions of a general counsel are prevalent since CSR involves the legal, business and ethical practices that define how a company conducts its business. Throughout all levels of the company, employees are guided by these principles so that the business is protected, even in the event of a legal dispute.

     

    The Most Critical KPIs for a Legal Department

    The most critical KPIs for a legal department

    Measuring the impact of the legal team is necessary to maintain adequate legal protection for a business. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) provide the objective measurements to determine whether your legal department is delivering a high level of performance or whether improvement is required in certain areas.

    There are many corporate legal department metrics that one can employ to monitor performance. Here are the most critical KPIs that should be monitored in all departments.

    Cost

    In all departments across an organization, cost is one of the most important factors considered by management to determine performance. It is generally compared against results to question the value of business or legal activities. In most cases, spend should not exceed industry averages and, in all cases, results should justify expenditure. A legal department should optimize expenditure to get the best value for money while achieving the best possible results.

    Time

    Depending on the activities of a legal department, time as a KPI can be measured in different ways. The average amount of time spent on a project or specific project types; the turnaround time for responsiveness or project completion; and the time taken to produce adequate or high-quality results. When measuring time as a KPI, a legal department should first determine what success looks like in terms of output. While it may seem like the quickest turnaround time is the best, it is more important that the legal department can produce the desired results in a consistent and predictable manner.

    Quality

    Time and quality as KPIs will generally work hand in hand. However, in some cases quality can be affected by a number of other factors. Even if a legal department has ample time to complete a project, it may lack necessary resources, budget or skilled contributors to complete it effectively. Assessing quality on a case-by-case basis can help a legal team to foresee potential issues that can affect quality and prepare for them in advance.

    Staff Turnover

    In order to maintain consistency and predictability in a legal department, a general counsel will need to understand what the legal team looks like at any given time. Whether the department thrives on turnover or works best with long-term contributors, a general counsel should decide what their “dream team” looks like and how best to establish it. This involves internal communication with team members to understand their career goals, external recruiting efforts to fill the gaps and regular assessments of the legal department to ensure all employees have the necessary resources to excel in their roles.

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    A focus on the annual legal budget plan

    A Focus on the Annual Legal Budget Plan

    As mentioned, cost is an important KPI for any corporate legal department, which requires a comprehensive annual legal budget plan. While there are certain special cases where unforeseen budget can be sourced from the finance department, a general counsel should oversee a budget plan that covers any predictable costs. This ensures the business is well prepared with any necessary legal resources and it also helps the legal department to maintain a positive relationship with the finance department and senior management.

    Some of the costs that the legal department should plan for are salaries, employee benefits, travel expenses, trainings and conferences, technical resources, external professional services, office events, and any other foreseeable fees. When developing an annual legal budget, a general counsel should consult with various team members to understand the costs for current and upcoming projects, then compare those costs with previous expenditure as well as industry standards.

    Throughout the year, the legal team should remain in contact with the finance department so that they can understand how the legal budget is spent. For many finance teams, it is advantageous to understand the legal process and how the budget is used to achieve goals. Not only can they provide financial advice, but they will generally be more responsive and supportive to requests for additional financial resources when needed.

    Tips and tools for an efficient legal department

    Tips & Tools for an Efficient Legal Department

    As a general counsel considers the legal team’s KPIs and annual legal budget plan, here are a few tips that can help to improve efficiency in the legal department.

    1. Research and implement new technologies

    The benefits of new legal technologies are helping businesses to increase productivity, decrease costs and automate processes to improve overall results. In a legal department, the ease of certain tasks, such as document management, can be greatly improved by integrating the right tool into the team workflow. Additionally, these tools can help your team to save time on cases as a well-integrated tool provides easy access to knowledge and documents.

    2. Standardize processes

    If the processes of a legal team can be predictable and consistent, this will result in positive outcomes for the business on multiple fronts. Legal expenditure can be optimized, results can be achieved efficiently, and the team does not need to spend time recreating solutions.

    3. Align the business and legal goals

    The best way to align goals across an organization is to employ cross-functional team members, who understand multiple aspects of the business. Many general counsels will hire legal department operations (LDO) employees, who handle the day-to-day operational activities, whereby they determine potential issues or areas for improvement. In this way, the general counsel can focus on ensuring long-term business and legal goals are aligned.

    How to avoid wasting money on intellectual property management

    Juggling Brand Protection

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    The all-encompassing responsibilities and tasks of a general counsel should result in strong brand protection for a business. While it can be challenging to juggle all the necessary inputs required, the future of a business is wholly dependent on the level of protection over its brand assets. With new market entrants and copyright infringement cases, there is constant potential for a detail to fall through the cracks, which can result in significant legal costs as well as negative impacts to revenue.

    Protecting the brand is paramount; this means a general counsel must ensure that they have covered all their bases by building a strong legal team, acquiring the necessary technology and resources to work effectively, developing workflow templates and contingency plans and knowing where to turn in the event of legal challenges beyond their purview.

    Brandstock for Corporations: Our Selection of Intellectual Property Legal Services

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    As a provider of intellectual property legal services, the Brandstock team has consulted with small- to large-sized organizations across multiple industries. With an international network of over 250 law firms, Brandstock delivers customized solutions to manage IP portfolios efficiently and economically. We support clients with trademark searching, filing and renewals as well as name creation, and IP recordals.

    Our team supports legal teams and businesses when they need to enforce IP, whether it is online or offline. With agent benchmarking and IP valuation, we also help businesses to optimize their spend on IP legal costs by building a smart IP portfolio that is aligned with business goals and negotiating external counsel fees to reduce spend.

    If your business needs support in one or more of these areas, contact us to find out how we can help you to improve the efficacy and expenditure of your intellectual property activities.

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