The Strategic Value of Legal Services

16 Dec ’05

The Wired GC writes today about an interview in HBS Working Knowledge with Harvard Business School Professor Constance Bagley on the eve of the publication of her new book, “Winning Legally: How Managers Can Use the Law to Create Value, Marshal Resources, and Manage Risk.” The good Professor sees an effective in-house and outside counsel team as a strategic weapon. What caught my attention was this little nugget, as clear a validation of my business model as I’ve seen so far:

Lawyers advising firms or acting as in-house counsel need to learn enough about the general practice of management that they can communicate effectively with the management team. A lawyer who can’t read an income statement or understand the rudiments of strategy is far less able to help the non-lawyers on the team consider alternate goals or ways of achieving them.

I believe that the principle goes further – that a deep operational understanding of the business and its environment is also a powerful advantage. One of the truly startling experiences for me as I advanced in BigLaw was how often I met lawyers who seemed oblivious of how the ‘real world’ – including their clients’ businesses – operated.

Interesting sidenote: the HBS site includes a book excerpt titled “Contracts Can Help Define and Strengthen Business Relationships”.

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