The in-house role – an academic perspective

The CEO of a major law department technology vendor recently passed along to me a copy of “Innkeepers: A Unifying Theory of the In-house Counsel Role” from a recent issue of the Seton Hall Law Review. I don’t spend much time with law review materials these days – nonetheless, I found the article of interest. Experienced in-house practitioners will already be familiar with most of its points, although it may organize some of the phenomena you observe in a useful way. Those new to the in-house environment may find it a useful grounding in the organizational, philosophical, and time and resource allocation issues that they will face every day.

A few key points from the article:

- Consistent with Right-Tasking’s focus on the dual role of in-houser’s in creating value and mitigating risk, the authors assert that “in-house counsel, when compared to other legal providers, have a greater potential impact on corporate affairs, particularly by curbing corporate opportunism and creating value.”

- In-house counsel create value in myriad ways: “In-house counsel value is not simply a function of individual value-producing activities; it also encompasses the networked and embedded nature of the role, which contributes to the enhancement of corporate value and competitive advantage in unique ways that outside counsel cannot easily replicate.”

- In-house counsel maximize their value when they focus on strategic issues: “the strategic tasks in-house counsel undertake add value, in large part, because they are fundamentally different from the typical tactical role of outside law firms.”

- In-house is more than just practicing law: “In essence, in-house counsel are the “Swiss Army Knife” of the legal profession and perform a fusion of roles, often assuming organizational responsibilities well beyond those of their internal counterparts.”

- You’re a cop on the beat and a firefighter: “In-house counsel perform both a routine monitoring (i.e., patrolling) and a crisis intervention (i.e., firefighting) function to promote compliance.”

- And you’re a counselor as well: “When equipped with adequate organizational standing and management support, in-house counsel also may reinforce a sense of order, authority, and legitimacy to corporate activities. In a sense, in-house counsel can function like a spiritual advisor…”

Contact me if you’d like additional perspectives on these issues – they can even form a framework for your next compensation discussion with your CEO.

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