Key concerns from GCs on motivating and managing your legal team

3 min read

Last updated: April 30, 2021

On Tuesday 18 August 2020, LOD hosted a roundtable discussion with ten senior in-house legal leaders from across the UK. The wide-ranging conversation centred on common concerns surrounding how to motivate and manage your legal team.

A one-page PDF summary is available here.

From the Peer Chat, we identified five clear concerns that arose out of the discussion:

The challenge of remuneration

Maintaining compensation at the right levels is a challenge emerging across the board – not just for the in-house legal community. The ultimate concern here surrounds keeping your talent (see point 5). One of the ways to combat any financial diminution or stagnation is to focus on other “carrots”. One GC talked about their keen focus on creating amazing CV opportunities for their lawyers. When you can’t pull the remuneration lever, you need to look at other and less overt ways to motivate the team.

“I still want my team to feel motivated, but I can’t guarantee promotions and increase remuneration”.

How to manage culture remotely

As we settle into our new ways of working, the challenge of managing culture remotely is becoming clearer and clearer. For many GCs, their concern on managing their team centres on three key elements:

  • How will juniors continue their learning and development? A lot of learning is done naturally via osmosis, simply by working in the office. How can you replicate this in a remote and distributed environment?
  • How do you combat feelings of isolation felt by your team?
  • How can people balance peoples’ diaries with focused work time and the high volume of meeting requests?

The tricky reality here is that the adjustment to remote working is not a uniform experience and not straightforward – there is a balance to be struck between “team bonding” type calls and not overwhelming your team with mandatory “fun” meetings. Something that has been successful at both LOD and with a few of the in-house teams represented in the Peer Chat is the assignment of “random buddies”. These informal pairings help foster not only a sense of camaraderie, but also can help replicate some of the more organic collaborations that happened in the office environments.

LOD spoke with some world-leading experts, including Dr Heidi Gardner, on remote working and you can listen to that podcast for free here.

“I’m trying to figure out how to organise a ​practical hybrid office ​a and remote way of working.”

Focus on value-add and business partnering

Ensuring legal is positioned favourably within the organisation is a constant theme for in-house legal leaders. In a crisis, this is heightened, and one area of focus during the Peer Chat was the notion of “business partnering” – empowering your legal team to have better and more productive conversations with the business. A large element in better business partnering is staying relentlessly focused on the value-add strategic work – what work can be dropped, or can you shift some of the load onto the commercial teams via self-serve?

Part of being a better business partner is being a trusted advisor – a well-worn phrase but important, nonetheless. In a recent LODcast, we spoke with the world-leading expert, Charles H Green, on the idea of trust and being a trusted advisor – you can access this here.

“I try to focus my team’sefforts on where theyadd value rather than on giving 100% to every job and burning out.”

More for less – a fantasy wearing thin

More for less is not only a tired refrain, it’s a typically misleading notion. Legal teams need to focus on doing differently or just doing less. Whether that’s by exploring legal operations and technology, better business partnering or by leaner contracting, you need to be realistic with what can be accomplished. More for less is often a recipe for burn-out, high stress and potentially greater risk exposure.

LOD will be exploring the idea of “doing less” in future Peer Chats and upcoming content – stay tuned.

“I don’t see how we can ​sustain the current high ​demand levels with limited budgets long term.”

Retaining talent

Despite the wider economic climate, there is still the challenge of retaining your highly skilled workers. This is a perennial item of focus for GCs and one which is accentuated by COVID. The costs surrounding hiring and on-boarding new staff means retention should always be a key focus. LOD recently collaborated with Terri Mottershead, a leading global expert on talent management, to create a report on “Building the next in-house legal team”. Part 3 of this report focused on keeping the right talent. You can read this here.

“I don’t want to lose my ​team to a still buoyant ​recruitment market for skilled people.”​

Helpful LOD resources:

  1. LOD’s At a Crossroad’s Report
  2. LODcast on Building the next in-house legal team
  3. LODcast on remote working
  4. LODcast on being a trusted advisor
  5. Keeping the right talent (Part 3 of Building the next in-house legal team)
  6. LOD Live “No Looking Back”
  7. LOD Perspectives: Nicola Graham-Shand
  8. LOD Perspectives: Sarah Payne