We take you behind the veil of legal with a series of interviews discussing all things in-house with several of our InView Champions.
Kate Sherburn, Legal Beagle (Senior Legal Counsel) at Who Gives A Crap, shares her insights on working in unison with the wider organization.
How can in-house legal help the wider business on a day-to-day basis?
The most important thing is to establish that you are there to help the business. We are there to support them in achieving their goals because, ultimately, we're all working towards the same thing. Once you can demonstrate that you are there to help, that means you can actually get in there and work with them, and they will loop you in earlier in the process. In a nutshell, you need to be approachable and accessible.
What are the key functions of legal as a resource to the organization that everyone should know?
That we aren't there to stop things from going ahead, so they shouldn't avoid coming to the legal team. In fact, the earlier we are looped in the better, because we can help guide you around the obstacles. If you're too far into the process, by the time legal gets involved that's when it's more likely they're going to have to backtrack because by that stage the obstacles are so close you can no longer go around them.
A key function is that we don't just look at things from a legal perspective. We work in the business too, we understand the drivers and take that into account when we provide our advice.
What areas of law do you most play in? Contract, employment, dispute resolution etc?
I'm a sole in-house lawyer, which means I cover the field! But the areas I spend the most time in are general commercial, contracts, privacy and employment.
In-house legal are known to 'put out fires before they begin'. How does an in-house team mitigate and foresee risk before it arises?
Ensuring that you're not so consumed with what's at your feet that you don't look up and see what's coming! This can be hard in a busy department, but it's vital to take that step back.
Something that can really help from a longer-term perspective as well is explaining to the business why you may approach things a certain way. Or the things you've taken into account, and then working with the business to determine where you go from there. This means that next time they come across the same issue, they are aware of the issues even before legal gets involved.
As the sole legal counsel for a rapidly growing start-up, Kate's point about being approachable, accessible and making it clear that in-house legal is there to help the business, is sound advice.