Best Practices for Building Strong Legal Departments

Diversity, working well with others key factors for winning teams.

Lawyers by nature and training often aren’t the best team players. They tend to seek autonomy and thrive on competition. Law schools and law firm experience can cement these traits, rewarding individual contribution over team accomplishments. Yet success in the in-house legal world often depends on being a good team player. To meet the dual responsibility of protecting the corporation and helping business unit clients achieve their goals, general counsel must build a culture based on teamwork at two levels—within the legal department itself, and in partnerships with its clients. The ability to work well with others is crucial to the four factors former Qwest General Counsel Rich Baer identifies as the hallmarks of great in-house counsel:

•    They help clients communicate more effectively

Rules for Retention

Keeping that great new hire happy in his or her new position isn’t always easy. It’s complicated by the fact that legal departments tend to be relatively flat organizations, with limited advancement opportunities. The recession further complicated this, because lawyers haven’t moved from company to company.

Sidebar: Teamwork Tool

Pro bono projects can be a valuable tool in keeping attorneys challenged and happy by offering them an opportunity to learn new skills while meeting their professional responsibility to give back to the community. They also provide opportunities to build teamwork.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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