Catalyst Logo

About Us
Our Clients Our Team
Business Partners
Upcoming Events
Articles Contact Us



  Legal Department Positioning & Strategy

Effectiveness is the ultimate test of the legal department. Getting the plan right is the first step. There are roles ranging from operational to strategic which can be carried out. Our offerings include

alignment with corporate and business unit plans
3-year demand forecasts for legal services
12 roles for legal departments
annual business plans for the legal department
non-legal functions of the legal department

For further information on positioning the legal department and executing business strategy, contact Richard Stock at or, 416)367-4447.

Articles on Positioning & Strategy

Making Legal a Strategic Contributor
Lexpert Vol. 19, No. 5, May 2018


Too Little, Too Late?
Lexpert Vol. 19, No. 5, May 2018

Most law departments do not possess the information or analyze the data that they have to leverage law firm capabilities. The result is a default to retail hourly pricing and the usual discounts for volume.
Too few firms have robust templates for matter plans and budgets. Planning assumptions and a percentage certainty by phase and task are the exception.
When asked, law firms always meet the challenge to produce data about practice patterns, to generate robust matter plans and budgets, and to accelerate the introduction of alternative fee arrangements.

Eight Transformative KPIs
Lexpert Vol. 19, No. 1, October 2017

Key performance indicators (KPIs) for the law department should be readily recognizable by all business units across the organization. Eight KPIs are described: strategic impact, results, innovation, operating practices, service, knowledge transfer, total legal spend, and external counsel. Introduction is advised before the 2018 planning season.

Value with Innovation in the Law Department
Juristes d’entreprises Special Edition, October 2016

Inside counsel operating as the hard-working "artist-in-residence" is not sustainable model. For the most part, it is not strategic in its approach and there are not enough hours in the day. Innovation should be a stand-alone performance indicator for the law department, because it focuses on strategic initiatives more than on operational support in the delivery of legal services. It requires leadership with a sensible allocation of resources.
For the most part, the best innovations are externally focused. Commercially astute solutions are well-received. A second performance indicator measuring strategic impact with select initiatives underscores the contribution of the law department. It requires innovation and out-of-the-box thinking by the General Counsel.

Strategic Impact
Lexpert, Vol. 17, No. 9, July-August 2016

You get what you measure. A key performance indicator (KPI) for “Strategic Impact” challenges the law department to choose its priorities, show more leadership, offer more resources to corporate business priorities, and re-think its critical competencies for senior counsel.

Lexpert, Vol. 17, No. 9, July-August 2016

You get what you measure. A key performance indicator (KPI) for “Strategic Impact” challenges the law department to choose its priorities, show more leadership, offer more resources to corporate business priorities, and re-think its critical competencies for senior counsel.

Meeting Management Challenges in the Legal Department
CCCA Magazine, Vol. 10, No. 1, Spring 2016

Four management challenges are being addressed by the law departments of progressive companies:

  • Coverage, organization and resources;
  • Efficiency, workflows and workloads;
  • Value performance, metrics and KPIs; and
  • Legal spend and costs.

Five steps are described

  1. Determine the department's activity levels;
  2. Select a handful of performance indicators that are part of the value proposition;
  3. Manage work traffic in the department;
  4. Assign and align the right amount of legal and paralegal resource with each user group; and
  5. Actively manage the cost of external counsel in two ways.

Leaning In
Lexpert, Vol. 17, No. 5, March 2016

Six processes support process improvement. The first three focus on the customer for value engagement. They include value creation, figuring out how the work gets done and removing waste. The fourth requires evidence-based decision-making, fifth is people empowerment, and the last is sustainable process improvement.

Process improvement will be successful when client behaviours change to require less legal service and more self-sufficiency from clients.

The 29-Point Check-Up
CCCA Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 3, Fall 2015

Legal departments need to develop a course of action to add value to the organization, to improve its operational effectiveness, to optimize its legal talent, and to improve the effectieness of external counsel. This article discusses 29 check-points across the four dimensions. Law Departments should rate themselves to identify areas to improve.

The Tucson Ten

Lexpert, Vol. 16, No. 8, June 2015

Conversations with 15 GCs over 3 days focused on four challenges: business plans and metrics; workflows and workloads; the organization and resources of the law department; and relationships with external counsel.
Workloads are, by far, the greatest challenge. But few departments have programs in place to reduce routine work. They can show few significant productivity improvements.

Comfortable or Condition Critical?

CCCA Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 2015

The article reviews 6 critical success factors, CSFs) for a successful law department - especially if they must add value to the company. The composite score for most departments is only 5 on 10. Priorities for improvement are proposed.

Employee Engagement:
The Canary in the Coal Mine of Performance

CCCA Magazine, Vol. 8, No. 4, Winter 2014

Customized engagement surveys for law departments are effective, even if the company does not conduct comprehensive surveys. Components include: an understanding of engagement drivers; career opportunities; learning and development; and managing performance, recognition, engagement and compensation.

The Global Law Department

Lexpert, Vol. 15, No. 10, September 2014

Three tests predict a good alignment of the law department with corporate objectives. The top 5 priorities of the department should be the same as those of business units. At least 50% of the department's resources should be supporting those 5 priorities. And the law department's annual plan should be written and include performance metrics.

Communicating Successes
Lexpert, Vol. 13, No. 7, June 2012

Effectiveness, Version 3.0
Lexpert, Vol. 12, No. 1, October 2010

The survey found that law departments with progressive practices documented formal objectives every year. They are proactive with their business units in delivery and make them less reliant on the department. Few departments go so far as to adjust their annual plans when demand shifts, preferring instead to respond to fluctuations. Some of Microsoft's legal practice groups found that service level agreements improve client satisfaction. Other departments rely on a variety of strategies to improve performance.

Reaching Legal's Full Potential
Lexpert, Vol. 11, No. 9, July/August 2010

The survey of 11 US national and multi-national companies focuses on talent management. Most legal departments collaborate with human resources in using formal systems to identify the most promising legal talent in the company. Core competencies for excellent performance are highlighted and cover select knowledge, skills, and attributes. The article ends with a discussion of leadership effectiveness and talent management systems.

Re-Calibrating for Business Now
Lexpert, Vol. 11, No. 9, July/August 2010

Borrowing from a study of Canadian corporate and institutional clients, the article suggests only 40% of professional service providers expected better results than in 2009 and 2008. Clients remain cautious in retaining external expertise, partially to contribute to reductions in corporate legal spending. Discussions take longer or are postponed.
Only a very few law firms are investing in legal project management, systems training, and alternative fee arrangements, AFAs). Few CLOs are pressing for any of this. Canadian law firms continue to search outside the country to secure significant and profitable commercial work.
Despite cost pressures, fewer than 1 in 10 companies are examining how they do business with law firms. They have little experience, time and appetite to rock the boat of professional relationships.

Efficiency, Partnering and Value
Lexpert, Vol. 11, No. 7, June 2010

The article highlights a presentation made by the general counsel of 4 airlines in March. Efficiency includes the annual re-alignment of legal resources with business plans, and doing so with a view to reducing operational support and the increasing strategic contributions.
Four trends were identified in the selection of law firms: invitational tenders to stabilize legal teams, prices and workflows; assignment of all levels, routine to complex) cost-effectively to full-service firms; shifting work to less expensive firms; and an accelerated program to alternative fee arrangements. The panel concluded that the best way for a legal department to show its value is by delivering results without compromising service levels.

Shaping Strategy and Metrics for the Legal Department
CCCA Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2010

Microsoft's strategic framework for its legal department contains 30 indicators across seven categories, all geared toward impact and effectiveness. There is external reporting of performance against the indicators. The department also relies on "foundational metrics" for its internal management. These include client satisfaction, budget performance, and employee satisfaction and organizational health.

Designing the Smaller Legal Department
Lexpert, Vol. 11, No 2, Nov-Dec 2009

Five operating principles are suggested for use in the design of smaller legal departments. Best practices are advanced to sustain the department as a center of expertise.
Usage protocols are recommended to allow the department to be cost-effective. Finally, 7 roles are proposed for the General Counsel.

Why Strategy Doesn't Work in Law Departments
Lexpert, Vol. 10, No 7, May 2009

Five factors which inhibit the execution of strategy are applied to law departments. They are executive leadership that is not mobilized, strategy that is not translated into operational terms, poor alignment with business units, strategy execution that is relegated to being someone else's job, and poor direction and communication on strategic goals.

Re-evaluating Cost and Value
Lexpert, Vol. 10, No 4, February 2009

Workloads and pressured schedules inhibit many legal departments from addressing service delivery challenges posed by their business units. Few departments have introduced formal protocols to triage and turn back work from primary internal users, preferring instead to lengthen the queue and cater to unrealistic expectations for service from the legal department. CLOs must become more adept at collaborative budgeting of legal matters, communications, and volume management with their law firms. The article invites corporate counsel to intervene around three elements of the law firm business model: attrition, leverage and hourly billing.

The Value Challenge
Lexpert, Vol. 10, No 7, May 2009

The components of the Value Challenge launched by the Association of Corporate Counsel in 2008 are discussed. The article suggests six elements essential to a sustainable relationship with law firms: 3-year demand forecasting for legal services, a new balance of in-sourced and referred work, non-financial expectations for law firms, formal requests for proposals, be they sole-sourced or competitive) from law firms, multi-year commitments for work volume and type to law firms, and the need for rigorous project and matter budgeting processes applied to legal work.

SMART Rewards: the Contribution of the Law Department to Corporate Priorities
CCCA Magazine, Vol. 2, No 1, Spring 2008

Performance management programs patterned on a balanced scorecard architecture can be a valuable tool for a corporation and its legal department. The article suggests fives sets of inputs General Counsel should use to construct their department's performance plan: the corporate strategic plan, a critical success factor framework or checklist, a SMART test, specific initiatives, outcomes / targets and measures / indicators, and a program to develop the department's intellectual capital.

Drawn and Quartered: The Municipal Law Department
Lexpert, March 2006

Municipal mergers and population growth have generated more legal work for law firms. They have also created 5 challenges for municipal law departments: broad-based poorly defined roles and responsibilities, unclear accountability to political and administrative masters, a growing demand for commercial skill sets, failure to leverage long-term partnering arrangements with fewer law firms, and failure to use key performance indicators which matter.

Redefining Expectations
Lexpert, May 2004

For those departments that wish to show how to add value, the steps are defining a role and mandate within the organization, harnessing expertise to uncover new value, adopting a client service orientation and establishing benchmarks to measure success.

Alignment for Effectiveness
Lexpert, March 2003

High performance law departments are effective and not only efficient. They have four types of alignment targets: corporate priorities, CEO objectives, key business units, the priorities of the company's strategic business partners. Examples of targets for each of these are presented.

Five Alignment Strategies for Insurance Clients
Insurance Law News, February 2003

Law firms use five techniques to become better aligned with their insurance clients: law firm goals that are measureable for the insurer, communication initiatives, delegation, rigorous case planning and budgeting, and non-hourly based billing.

About Us / Our Clients / Our Team / Business Partners / Upcoming Events / Articles / Presentations / Contact Us

Copyright 2006-2009, Catalyst Consulting