Why Use an Outsourced Legal Department? (VI)
By Jonathan Wachs, Offit Kurman
Why should an organization consider using an outsourced legal department? This series takes a look at some of the most compelling reasons to engage a third-party lawyer or team of lawyers to meet your legal needs. Part VI.
Reason #6 to Consider an Outsourced Legal Department: Perspective
“Think different.” Apple’s former advertising slogan, which coincided with Steve Jobs’ return to the company in 1997, inaugurated a new era in technology and personal computing. The words came to signify the meteoric rise Apple would experience through the launch of innovative products over the next decade, as well as a larger philosophical shift in the industry as a whole. Countless entrepreneurs and business leaders today have internalized the message. It speaks to an innate desire to stand out, embrace new ideas, act from a place of authenticity, and continually move forward.
Truly “different” thinking, however, remains rare. In a world in which every executive seeks to revolutionize his or her line of business, effecting substantive change takes more than a desire to do so. Decision makers are constrained by the scope of their organizations’ knowledge and resources. This is one of the reasons businesses regularly turn to key advisors, who view decisions both from the point of view of a trained outsider as well as from that of an insider who is keenly aware of the day-to-day operations of the business. Modern companies need team members who can think creatively to navigate through periods of substantial growth and/or change. As a result, companies annually spend substantial resources on recruiting and leadership training programs to cultivate creativity and ingenuity throughout their organizations.
As I wrote in Part 5 of this series, law practitioners typically join growing companies in response to legal issues rather than in advance of those issues. In such cases, a legal team may not appreciate the context or background surrounding the specific legal problem. An outsourced general counsel with a history of the organization, on the other hand, can interpret issues from multiple perspectives. Unlike conventional outside attorneys, members of an outsourced legal team hired through a program such as New Paradigm Counsel® will visit your company and participate in on-site meetings at regular intervals, bridging the gap between departments and helping you make your organization more efficient. Your Client Relationship Manager (CRM) will see issues as an insider—from the same perspective as your key employees—kindling a fuller understanding of your unique internal politics and procedures, company history, industry challenges, competitive differentiators, and mission and values. This multifaceted perspective improves your capacity to make strategic decisions more effectively and efficiently.
Fresh Perspective Is a Scarce Resource
While virtually every company understands the value of a new perspective, few are able to reliably or affordably secure it. In order to see their organizations from different angles, corporate leaders sometimes resort to outlandish tactics, as documented on the program Undercover Boss. While the popular television show plays up its stories for dramatic and comedic effect, its subjects are real—and some of the executives who have participated have dramatically transformed their organizations using the insight they gained from the experience of going “undercover” as a low-level employee. Rick Tigner, CEO of Jackson Family Wines, instituted a new company code of conduct following his episode of the show; after Tigner realized he was unable to communicate with Spanish-speaking employees, he mandated language training classes. Former Frontier Airlines CEO Bryan Bedford, meanwhile, promised to reverse his decision on company-wide pay cuts after he discovered how they impacted employee morale.
Not every organization can solve its problems through a reality show, of course. Often, novel ways of doing things only emerge during times of crisis. Allan Mulally joined Ford as an executive in 2006—the year the company reported a $12.6 billion loss. Mulally, the former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, brought an unfamiliar point of view to Ford and was able to identify solvable manufacturing and sales issues the rest of the leadership team could not recognize. According to Bryce G. Hoffman, author of American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, “Mulally ripped off the bandage, cauterized the wound and cured the disease. Only an outsider could do that.” Imagine having an individual with Mulally’s perspective at your organization: What could you accomplish that seems impossible today? Your outsourced legal department, managed by your CRM, fulfills a similar role. Your CRM is a highly trained and loyal individual who champions your business needs within your legal team’s office. He or she will make sure that the attorneys who perform legal services on your behalf are continually working in your best interests and in the direction of your organization’s current priorities.
This arrangement provides you with the benefits of perspective—increased profits, greater innovation, happier and more productive employees—without the aforementioned drawbacks: the cost of hiring new executives, wholesale changes to company culture, or the need to engage in Undercover Boss-style tactics. Outsourced legal departments bring much-needed new perspectives and outside experience, and can uncover new operational efficiencies for you at a scale and pace that meets the needs of your organization.
Attorneys engaged through an outsourced legal department have hands-on experience working with businesses to address these liabilities. Because they likely possess meaningful exposure to other companies in both related and unrelated industries, members of an outsourced legal department bring to the table otherwise absent knowledge of your competitors, your customers, and organizations that have faced challenges and opportunities similar to yours. This blend of experiences enables your assigned lawyers to help you shape your company’s best practices.
This article marks the end of my six-part series on the myriad benefits of using an outsourced legal department. If you missed any of the previous five installments, you can access them via the links below:
Jonathan WachsOffit Kurman, Baltimore, United States
Jonathan Wachs provides strategic counseling and operational advice to clients in the areas of intellectual property, commercial transactions and outsourced legal departments. As head of the firm’s Intellectual Property Group, Mr. Wachs works closely with clients to develop, register, analyze, enforce, and transfer intellectual property assets in a customized, cost-efficient, and highly effective manner. Additionally, he conducts intellectual property audits through which clients learn the nature and value of their intellectual property assets and the steps needed to protect such assets from misappropriation or dilution. As a business lawyer, he has successfully negotiated and completed several multimillion dollar business transactions and has served as general counsel to several small and midsize businesses and organizations in various industries and professions. He also manages a blog about intellectual property issues, Friday Factoids. Mr. Wachs co-manages New Paradigm Counsel, a service through which Offit Kurman delivers customized, comprehensive and cost-effective outsourced legal departments. Through New Paradigm Counsel, Jon served as outsourced general counsel for a government contractor, a large printing business, a payment processing company and an identity theft restoration business.
Published: November 2016 l Photo: tiero - Fotolia.com