Creative Thinking: Managing a legal department requires patience, understanding and the ability to think outside the box

Back in January, when I gave birth to my first child, I honestly thought, "How hard can this really be?" I enjoy feeding him when he's hungry, soothing him when he's fussy and changing his diaper when it's dirty. And that certainly helps with regard to how much is "work" and how much is "fun" to me as a mom.

But sometimes (drum roll, please), it isn't as easy as I originally thought. Sometimes he wakes up so hungry that it's hard to get him to settle down. Sometimes he's fussy for no reason and nothing seems to calm him down. As for his diaper, I'll leave that to the imagination.

As a result, I have found myself in quite a few situations where I've had to put my creative genes into overdrive. Case in point: There are times when my son gets so worked up that he's crying too hard to keep his pacifier--the most calming device in our arsenal--in his mouth. But I've discovered that if I dip the pacifier in a flavored beverage such as grape juice, he holds onto it and is able to suck on it long enough to calm himself down. It works every single time, and has been a "best practice" in my house for a few months now.

While raising a child and managing a legal department are drastically different tasks, they both require common qualities: patience, understanding and the ability to "think outside of the box."

In this month's cover story--announcing our annual IC-10 ("Game Changers")--we profile 10 of 2009's most innovative legal departments. This year, the solutions that IC-10 winners have come up with run the gamut. For example, one legal department--in the interest of slashing its spend on legal services--challenged the common practice of using only big-name law firms to handle its work, and in the process saved substantially and lowered its risk. Another legal department instituted an exchange program with its international offices in an effort to help its in-house lawyers better understand the global business. A third department created an easy-to-carry reference card to help its employees keep compliance top-of-mind--a reminder that, like dunking the pacifier in fruit juice, sometimes the simplest solutions are the most effective.

Whether it's a long thought-out plan implemented over a period of time or a quick solution to a common problem, these 10 legal departments used innovation to create efficiencies and improve efficacy within their departments. Each of their stories offers a valuable lesson: Creativity always pays off.

Editor

Cathleen Flahardy

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