I was speaking today to the Law Society In-House Lawyers’Conference about managing the reputation of the in-house legal function. Here is a summary of what I said.
Why do in-house lawyers need to think about it?
Reputation in the organisation – if you have a reputation as unapproachable, disengaged or disinterested, you will not be asked to participate in your organisation’s management. You will be looking in from outside. They may even get rid of you.
Recruiting good people – A good reputation means you will recruit good people
Maintaining the reputation of the profession – we have a duty to maintain the reputation of the profession to the public.
Six Key Points
No-one needs a legal team – there is no pre-ordained rule that your organisation must have in-house lawyers – if you do not manage your reputation positively, it may spell the end of the team and your job
Don’t be a bidet – Just as nature abhors a vacuum and will fill it; if you don’t build your reputation someone else will give you one. Legal teams are often referred to in negative ways. I remember one colleague referring to my team as “the Bidets”, as no one knew what we did, but we gave the place a touch of class.
It’s value, stupid – Our reputation should be built around creating value for our organisation. That means that we need to make sure the lawyers deliver against what the organisation decides is important. Value is measured in terms of delivery of an organisation’s strategy – make sure you are aligned to that and that you emphasise that is what you are measured against.
People buy People – the first rule of sales and it should not be ignored. It does not matter how good a technical lawyer you are, if you can’t display a grasp of emotional intelligence, then you will soon find yourself out of the loop in your organisation.
“I’m not a tin of beans” – true, but having a uniform style across the team is important. Using the same font style and size, email signatures, document layouts etc may seem like branding, but reputation management revolves around having a strong, positive uniform brand and approach.
Be an evangelist – not the slick suited, comb over TV preacher type, but someone who is prepared to see the positive side of situations and problems. I often come across the nickname “Dr No” for the lawyers. Would it not be good to be known as Doctor Yes?
So positively manage your reputation. Do not be afraid of telling people in organisation that dealing with you should be a positive experience. Make it a positive experience and your reputation as a valuable part of the business will grow rapidly.