The In-House Leader’s Leadership Dilemma (Part E - GLS’s Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations)

Legal team transformation creates personal risk for in-house legal team leaders. Explore how this impacts legal team transformation decision making.

5 mins • 22 Nov 21


Legal Ops Lesson: Managing Legal Team Transformation Risk

The In-House Leader's Dilemma - Avoiding Legal Team Transformation Fallout 


The risks of legal team leadership

In the GLS Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations, the leading introductory publication on legal team efficiency, we explored the personal dilemma faced by legal team leaders as they consider the personal risks that they might face in relation to a failed or sub-optimal legal team transformation process. 

In today's corporate environment, as much as people may protest to the contrary, one cannot totally divorce potential personal consequences from good corporate decision-making.

The most powerful fuel for corporate change is to align the corporate agenda with the personal agenda of key stakeholders - wherever that is possible. Historically, in the in-house legal sector “alignment of interest” has not always been what we would like it to be.

Legal team transformation projects can carry significant risks 

Transformation projects of every kind have typically carried significant risks of failure - in most cases, for entirely avoidable reasons. Just think about the ERP, CRP, and other restructuring initiatives that your business might have recently been through. 

Unfortunately, in-house legal teams are not historically known for their ability to embrace change. Nothing controversial in that - we would suggest.

However, and more critically, the tools and processes that can actually help legal teams massively improve their performance are not necessarily areas that legal team leadership has had experience in and/or exposure to.

For example, in-house leaders have not always had to be expert in:

  • legal technology pathways
  • data analytics to assess legal team performance
  • legal process improvements and legal process management
  • digital transformation
  • vendor management and supply chain strategies
  • business process engineering
  • legal operations
  • change management, etc.

Add to this - in-house legal departments have typically been amongst the busiest of all departments within any organization as they focus on meeting the huge demand for legal services. This has left little time to master the skills needed for effective transformation.

The net result is quite understandable - in-house leaders, based on historical experience and ways of operating, are arguably not entirely best placed to be the author of an effective legal transformation plan. 

Yet, the responsibility for legal transformation failure can often be placed at the feet of legal team leaders - that is an all too common (and undesirable) part of the corporate culture. 

What this means is that responding to the deafening calls for improved legal team performance via legal transformation - inarguably carries a clear and definitive personal risk factor for in-house leadership.

We believe it would be naïve to consider that the assessment of personal risk by in-house leaders does not influence the decision not to pursue a transformation strategy. Ignoring this would be irrational - and one thing in-house lawyers are not - is irrational.

Personal Risk. Is it preventing legal team transformation?

So, what is the right response for the in-house leadership community to the personal risk associated with transformation? To what extent does the response of in-house leadership account for the fact that less than 20% of in-house legal teams are actively pursuing a transformation agenda? Does it feature at all?

In Part E of the GLS's Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations, we help in-house leaders (General Counsel, Chief Legal Officers, Heads of Legal, etc.) explore this issue in significant detail and try and put the issue in context - you can download Part E by clicking the link below:

Spoiler alert: here are a few conclusions we reached:

  • now more than ever in-house leadership needs to be pursuing effective, low-risk transformation strategies
  • in-house leaders have no choice but to proactively and decisively move forward with their legal team transformation agenda
  • in-house leaders that do not have a legal operations team need to become their own director of operations
  • strategic planning for legal team performance improvement is now a permanent feature of legal team leadership
  • all legal team members must embrace transformation and improvement performance culture
  • developing a legal operations competency is critical - legal ops is here to stay
  • regardless of discomfort levels - legal transformation is the only viable pathway for legal teams who must improve legal team performance

Fortunately, one of the most formidable skills that most lawyers have is the ability to consume and organize vast amounts of information in no time at all. Our job is of course to point the in-house community in the direction of the right information - or even more efficiently - to provide it to you directly.  

Additionally, GLS can guide you and your legal team through not only the personal risk associated with transformation - but every aspect of implementing performance improvement initiatives into at times - inert corporate environments.


Please check out the GLS solutions and know-how resources listed on the right side of this page – they might assist your legal team with the issues explored in this Blog. 

Of course, if you would like discuss your transformation needs – please book a 30 minute FREE CONSULT WITH GLS 

In the interim, here are 7 resources and tools that may assist you as you transform the performance capabilities of your legal team:

1. GLS's Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations: download this HERE, and read it thoroughly and regularly. It is a wonderful transformation companion

2. GLS Transformation Boot Camp: for our free and hugely successful, 10 week long, email-based boot camp on how to effectively transform your legal team you can SIGN UP HERE

3. GLS Knowledge Centre: click HERE to access lots of informative and instructive white papers, blogs and training resources etc. - all focused on helping to improve your legal team's performance

4. GLS Legal Operations Community: join the GLS Legal Operations Community and collaborate with other in-house leaders as they seek to tackle many of the same performance issues that you face, click here to JOIN NOW

5. Visit GLS Connect: visit the GLS CONNECT PAGE and select the information you would like to receive from the GLS Legal Operations Community

6. GLS Legal Team Transformation Plans: mitigate the risks of transformation failure by taking a GLS TRANSFORMATION SUPPORT PLAN 

7. Register: GLS Legal Operations Centre: REGISTER HERE to access the GLS Legal Operations Centre for free and to receive more than US$20,000 worth of legal team performance resources

© The GLS Group - Law Rewritten

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