Embarking on the journey of mastering the law is one thing; however, assembling your legal dream team and turning visions into reality is where the real challenge lies.

In this blog post, we dive into the intricacies of structuring a legal team. We engaged legal experts——Chieko Higaki, GC at Ranger Power LLC; Corinna Mitchell, GC at Symphony Communication Services, LLC; Rob Morvillo, GC at Olo; and Lawtrades—in a conversation about their experiences facing these challenges.

Assessing a Legal Team’s Needs

Every in-house counsel runs the cost-benefit analysis of expanding their legal team versus employing outside counsel. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for this issue, but there are considerations and factors that can help guide the decision. It is important to balance the vision of the company over the next 2-5 years with the pressing business and legal needs of a start-up.

Consider the following:

  • How is your organization projecting to grow?
  • How much are you spending on outside counsel?
  • How much risk needs to be addressed?
  • Is there a strategic way to mitigate this risk?

“[When] the cost of outsourcing is high, it is usually time to add more resources.”
– Corinna Mitchell, GC at Symphony Communication Services, LLC

Building a Team

An assessment of the company’s needs is vital when considering a new hire and is used to determine whether a paralegal, legal operations specialist, or attorney is needed. Chieko Higaki, GC, Ranger Power LLC suggests asking:

  • How will the new hire contribute to the capabilities of your department?
  • What do you envision the department’s core needs are from the organization?

To solve a problem, you need to know what the problem is that you are addressing. It is important to look holistically at the legal department, how it fits into the company and the needs it is meant to address. In doing so, you will better understand how to improve your team and the overall organization’s efficiency. Rob Morvillo, General Counsel at Olo, suggests directing your attention to the following crucial factors:

  1. the company’s nature (public or private),
  2. adherence to industry standards,
  3. geographical considerations, and
  4. alignment with current strategic business plans

Nurturing A Team

Growing a team entails more than recruiting skilled lawyers, it hinges on fostering an environment where team members can thrive, guided by trust and an investment in their individual career development.

“Experiences and good relationships drive retention. If people are working on interesting things and getting new experiences, I’ve seen people turn down more money for that. If they feel like they are empowered to make changes, people feel more engaged.”
– Rob Morvillo, GC at Olo

A leader should not be micro-managing their team’s tasks but managing their overall career growth. Challenging and empowering team members in their work will create a foundation based on transparency and trust.

“No matter what is happening in the rest of the organization, your team should be cohesive and trust in each other.”
– Chieko Higaki, GC, Ranger Power LLC

Budget Strategies

Navigating budget challenges is a crucial aspect of overseeing a legal team. Let’s delve into some high-level strategies for keeping your budget lean:

  • Building Relationships with Trusted Partners
    • Chieko Higaki emphasizes the significance of understanding that outside counsel is a considerable expense. She suggests focusing on building relationships with trusted partners based on a long-term understanding, whether within the current organization or beyond. For Chieko, it’s about recognizing that these are individuals, not just companies. Human relationships and desires play a pivotal role in managing transparent expectations.
  • Leveraging a Larger and Expert Team
    • Corinna Mitchell adds her insights on reducing outside counsel spending by building a larger, more expert team. Drawing from her experience, she notes that a well-structured team can be more cost-effective and efficient. Corinna successfully made the case to the finance team, highlighting the savings derived from having a team with diverse expertise.
  • Exploring Cost-Effective Service Providers
    • Rob Morvillo provides practical strategies for cost-effective legal services. He suggests exploring lower-cost service providers for non-bet-the-company work. Drawing from his own experience outside of Cleveland, Rob has successfully transitioned work from big-city law firms to impressive regional firms with more affordable hourly rates, better service, and equivalent talent. Negotiating discounts and avoiding unnecessary costs, such as paying for multiple attorneys on calls or cases, are additional strategies Rob recommends.

Structuring a legal team demands a comprehensive understanding of the company’s needs, resources, and vision—decisions that can make or break its success. As you navigate this complex landscape, equip yourself with valuable resources and meet challenges head-on by applying for membership at TechGC today. Curious to learn more about Lawtrades and their collaboration with our community? Discover further details here.