Even In House Lawyers Must Market Themselves

January 7, 2015

Gwangali Beach, Busan


ITS ABOUT MARKETING….As I look out upon Gwangali Beach in Busan, I am reminded that everyone seeks a renewal of themselves and/or their organizations for 2015.  Everyone is busy preparing for a new year of meeting or exceeding sales targets. A new year of meeting or exceeding goals.  Of increasing revenue. The trouble is that some divisions within a company (excluding sales and marketing of course) fail to think about their organization in terms of marketing.  However, even departments, such as the legal department or compliance department, must market themselves within a company, and even sometimes outside of the company itself.  Why?  Its all about resources.  Unless, you have properly marketed yourself, you may not have access to resources that departments or divisions such as sales and marketing have. If an in house law department doesn’t market its needs properly to its favorite law firms, those firms may opt to devote the firm’s scarce resources to other clients. This means the company may get the law firm's B team or the C team instead of the A team.  It may not get the quality legal representation that you want.

So, in terms of an in house law department what does marketing entail?  First, the law department should ask a series of questions including:

  1. What goals has the law department set for the coming year if any?
  2. What resources does the law department need?
  3. What budget processes must the General Counsel go through?  Normally, a law department must think about 2 budgets- its budget and the company’s ( its client) overall budget.
  4. What are the true legal/business needs of the company?
  5. How can the law department add to the bottom line?
  6. What outside resources does the law department need to reach its goals?

Those in house lawyers new to an in house setting might be shocked to realize they are in a sense expected to be more than just a lawyer - but also a trusted business partner/advisor.  They are expected to understand internal corporate processes and not just basic legal theories or doctrine.  They are expected to know how to interface with the business units, and yes, to know how to properly support them.  Lawyers in law firms are usually specialists in a narrow area of law. They are supposed to be able to give expert legal advice on certain narrow topics whether it is tax, product liability, civil litigation, etc.  But they don’t know the inner workings of a company!  They are not aware of the big picture.  In house lawyers, if they do their job correctly, are not only aware of the big picture but also familiar with implementing processes and procedures within the company.  In other words, how to make things work.  But, they cant do it without resources.  So, for those in house lawyers out there - what have you done to ensure you have adequate resources in 2015 to protect your client?

When considering the law department budget of even the compliance budget remember you need resources to make things happen.  You therefore need the support of not only upper management but mid- level management as well.  Are managers inviting you to their meetings?  If not, it may be hard to learn about the major issues facing the company.  Do employees understand the role of the law department or compliance department?  If not, steps need to be taken to provide sufficient training and support.

So think about marketing legal or compliance within the organization.  Perhaps think about marketing it to outside vendors and/or clients.  Your clients maybe impressed when they realize how supportive your law department is or how seriously your compliance department takes compliance issues.  Practical steps:

  1. Market your compliance department to employees.  Hold introductory training sessions within the organization.  Offer little gifts or tokens so the employees remember the compliance department.  Make certain they remember your processes.
  2. Market the law department to management.  Every month send out a top ten list to upper management and your division managers on what legal issues you resolved or handled that helped the organization.  Sales and marketing managers may not be aware that legal just handled a serious legal/business matter that saved the bottom line and yes, maybe even the company.
  3. Hold lunches with senior managers on a regular basis.  Once they are comfortable with you they will open up.  That’s when you hear about how efficient the law department or compliance department is perceived and why. Or of course, you may hear about the perceived problems with the law department or compliance department which will then give you a chance to correct such perceptions.

Remember, just because legal or compliance is in most cases not a profit center does not mean you doesn’t have to worry about the bottom line.  In order for legal or compliance to do its job properly, it needs resources.  Which is why you must also think about marketing your services within the company.  Management as well as the company's employees should realize the importance of your function and  should want your department to succeed.

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