‘Two contrasting themes’ emerge at 2020 In-house Legal Summit

The use of tech in legal service delivery and human skills were both highlighted

‘Two contrasting themes’ emerge at 2020 In-house Legal Summit
Helen Mackay, Juno Legal director

“Two contrasting themes emerged at the NZ Lawyer In-house Legal Summit: the enhanced use of data and technology to plan and design the delivery of legal services, and the need for greater human skills in serving clients well,” Juno Legal director Helen Mackay said.

At this year’s summit, which took place on 1 December, top in-house lawyers took the stage to speak on a number of topics. Mackay said that there was “a clear focus on the strengthening of key client relationships and the continued development of skills including active listening, appreciative enquiry and coaching and mentoring team members.”

“Delegates were encouraged to push collaboration not just across their teams but also across the wider in-house legal profession,” she said. “In-house legal is not a competitive advantage, so lawyers should search for and get in touch with lawyers in other organisations who have similar challenges or operating models, as well as those who they think they can learn from.”

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Discussions also delved into 2020’s unprecedented challenges, which highlighted the need for in-house lawyers to both lean into and initiate change.

“One tool suggested was for lawyers to develop and share ‘change stories’,” Mackay said. “Research by McKinsey has shown that successful transformation is six times more likely when leaders have aligned their change stories with each other and then shared them out into the organisation.”

She also said that a high volume of low-risk or low-value work “is an insidious problem in an in-house legal function when not managed well and ruthless prioritisation is essential.”

“Every lawyer needs to be able to clearly articulate the legal strategy and how it is aligned to the overall business strategy. The strategy must then be translated into an actionable plan that is delivered,” Mackay said.

Legal departments can monitor and quantify the work being prioritised using dedicated legal tools such as LawVu and Xakia or business project management applications like Microsoft Planner and Trello, she said. Departments can then show their organisations the value they add to the business.

Mackay also praised the session conducted by James & Wells on IP for in-house lawyers.

The 2020 In-house Legal Summit was attended by over 100 in-house lawyers. The event was held at the Hilton Auckland.

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