Searching for Yetis – The Mystical Value of Value

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how it was important for in-house lawyers to realise that they are not just managers of risk, but creators of business opportunity (for that blog, click here).  I am going to expand on that theme in this blog. I am going to look at what delivering “value” from legal services means

Many GCs and in-house lawyers now want to be seen to be “delivering value” as they come under cost and headcount pressure. “Value” is spoken of in reverential terms, as if it is a universal, single truth. No one can quite describe what it is. It is as illusory as the Yeti. Occasionally tracks are discovered in the snow or it is seen at a distance, but the Yeti always escapes, just at the point we think we have caught it. “Value” from legal services is the same.

I do not believe in the Yeti.  I also do not believe that there is a single, immutable meaning of “value” when looking at it in the context of legal service provision. “Value” is entirely subjective.

Without becoming existentialist, the conclusion that “value” is subjective poses the question how can the in-house lawyer best put themselves in the position to deliver value to their client business or organisation? My view is that there are two key elements that the in-house lawyer can operate to achieve the outcome for their organisation; the way in which the lawyer acts (transactor, facilitator or leader) and how they deliver the service.

Lets consider the following diagram:


If you only act as a transactor, you deliver some, but very little value. You are merely executing instructions. If you operate as the facilitator, you will give greater value. For example you may suggest how to approach a regulator or negotiation tactics. When you act at the leader level, you will not only execute the requirements of your business colleagues, but you also help them frame those requirements including identifying previously unforeseen business opportunities.

Regarding your delivery, the client will always expect you to provide expertise; if they did not have that expectation, they would never ask you to be involved. If you can deliver your expertise in an efficient way, then you will be providing more value. If you can be innovative in your delivery that will be the most valuable output to your organisation.

This all seems pretty obvious, but it is remarkable the scant regard that is paid to the simple construct. Furthermore it is not just theory. Surveys repeatedly show that what clients want most from their lawyers is innovative business leadership in legal matters. Deliver that and you will be delivering real value to your business.

So let us stop looking for Yetis and apply a little science instead.

© ianjoneslaw – December 2013

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