Splitting the in-house atom

There are essentially two parts to an in-house legal department; intellect and process.

They are connected but not the same. 

You can’t truly liberate the first until you properly organise the second. Workflow doesn’t sound exciting but getting it right can be transformative to an in-house legal department. And it’s not something that you do in half measures.

One final thought. Intellect for lawyers is their  comfort zone. Workflow is not a comfort zone for lawyers. Which explains why most change in big corporate legal departments is increasingly being lead by the operational side of the underlying business and less so by the GC.

The tiniest things can make a big difference

When a junior member of staff drops an email to the CEO they are not looking for a long dialogue because they know that you are important and busy.

But clicking reply and typing the words ‘thank you’ (or even ‘ty’) can have a huge impact. And it takes seconds to do. Imagine that impact if you pass them in the corridor and said “I appreciate the email, sorry I haven’t got back but I like what you are saying.”

The really smart leader knows when to deploy their ‘ty.’

Recognition is powerful, no matter how small, even just two words. Bothering can change someone’s day. Even yours.

Your choice.

Like’s Labour’s Lost (exeunt Twitter?)

The truth is we want to be liked. We want to be engaged with our fellow human. We crave to hang out with the cool kids in the playground. If you don’t accept that then I think you are in denial.

Twitter et al have just made that easy, even lazy, and process driven.

Last week on my 50th birthday I got ‘congrats’ from people on LinkedIn I barely know and certainly don’t engage with. To be honest it felt awkward because it felt a bit insincere. Lazy push button dashboard insincerity that was a million miles away from the huge surprise birthday dinner my wife organised where family and friends (some travelling a great distance) came together to mark my day. A treasured memory. I didn’t share it on social because it was hard to convey the emotion and tbh why should I, few would care that much anyway.

Today we don’t have to do the hard work, the risk taking, the creation of trust, the building of relationships that demand intimacy, exposing our vulnerabilities, the connecting. And why would we when all our ‘relationships’ are a click away?

But we should try harder.

Debate, discussion, relationship building in real life is very different to social media. In real life you have to respond there and then. You can’t edit, delete, ignore. Your whole body language is on display. In real time you cannot hide. It’s hard for a reason. But it’s also exciting, life affirming and can change things that get increasingly buried in the social media ‘noise.’ Also, and this is important, our fellow human is far more forgiving, far less judgemental, far better at collaborating when we move to ‘in real life.’

To be honest many of the people I meet via social media are a huge disappointment as I am, no doubt, to them.

Will I leave Twitter? Nope. I have a handful of people I call my friends who I engage with via DM because it is an efficient process, (it’s not always easy to meet for a coffee in my favourite New York diner). I also follow fascinating and quirky accounts that satisfy my needs for the arts, news, sports journalism and reflection on world events. Oh, in case you forgot, many that make me laugh out loud with their clever humour and sarcasm.

But where this ultimately ends up as is small, tight networks built around trust and value that matter to me (and you). Just like we used to do when the cool kids didn’t want to know us and before we worked out that those cool kids actually weren’t cool at all.

Anonymous

Yes this is another ranty post. But it’s short. Well shorter than the last one.

What is it about people who post negative and at times nasty comments on blogs or articles anonymously? They are pat on the head type comments, you know the sort, “how could you possibly know as much as me?” Their tone is always masculine with a hint of “run along dear, two sugars in mine.” I don’t claim to be a feminist but I do try to not be a dickhead.

Two words Mr Anon. Piss off.

If you haven’t got the courage of your convictions to declare who you are then go do one. Which you won’t because in your sad disillusioned way you’ll see this post as a kind of victory. The really sad bit, the bit you are way too arrogant to comprehend, is that we in the silent majority seats are laughing at you. Yep.

People don’t need smug smart arsses who lack the guts to even tell us who they are with their Mornington Crescent nonsense. It’s more juvenile than a Year 4 playground. It’s ego at its most twisted and destructive. It’s hiding in the shadows rather than standing up to be counted.

Nope no comments on this blog. I’d rather engage with Anonymous (or anyone) on the open fields of Twitter. But then that means declaring your hand and I can’t see that happening any time soon because level playing fields just aren’t your natural environment are they Mr Anon?

Another click in the wall

Predictions are click bait. Pretty vacuous stuff. Keep calm then carry on as you were. Who gives a toss anyhow? Truly, people don’t, apart from a few who have nothing better to do than keep the plates of future happenings spinning in the hit and hope strategy that something beyond their control will miraculously save them.

It gets better. Predictions about areas people don’t know much about never mind actually work in. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-! Suddenly everyone is a big data, legal analytics, artificial intelligence expert. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, “I work with a lot of legal analytics engineers, I consider some to be my friends. You are no legal analytics engineer.”

For them, the hit and hopers, predictions are like catnip. The year end marketing ordnance for email carpet bombing campaigns spun into infographic calibres to try and make them more interesting. Big enough to be heard, empty enough to make zero impact. This strategy rarely starts conversation, it just makes people dig deeper bunkers.

And predicting the bleedin’ obvious doesn’t count. Saying technology will be important is a bit like saying there will be a World Cup in 2018. The hard bit is predicting who will win it.

To amuse you…there will be a young intern in one of these companies that predict who, probably this morning, will present their click analytics. They will look at all the people who clicked and RT’d. They will add up all the followers of those people and say, I kid you not, “our predictions blog has been exposed to 876,417 people on Twitter.” Job done. FFS! I know this because I have had to endure such meetings.

I was asked at a conference recently what I thought would happen in 2016. My reply was, “To be honest I have no idea.” The relief on people’s faces that they weren’t going to be lectured to by someone who didn’t know them or their challenges…again, was all too obvious. And anyhow even if I could predict the future attending a GC conference would be pretty low priority.

That’s the truth about so called experts. They have lulled us into a sense that they know something we don’t. And they don’t have to stress about any of that timeline, delivery target nonsense that the rest of us have to in the real world. No they can qualify it “within 5 years” or something else sufficiently vague and non-commital, constantly shifting their sands with an always fuelled get away car. They get away with this because we let them.

I am not actually anti prediction if it creates a wider conversation and purpose but it rarely does.


So here you are, another click in the wall. I appreciate the irony of posting this and adding to the noise. So…

…here’s another view, as a thank you for making it this far, my virtual ‘chin chin’ to you. I am not really qualified to confirm these other than the fact that I clock in, clock out of this sector day in and day out. And in that clocking in/out process I see patterns of behaviour, distilled below.

Until the intellectual (advice, reason, judgement, trust) is clearly separated from the process (organising, measuring, visibility, alerting), as a point of serious discussion then things will remain ‘as is.’ It will be the same with prediction blogs in 2016, 2017 and probably 2018.

Intellectual and process are two entirely separate things. But they coexist. They need each other. It’s Legal’s greatest barrier to progressing that it thinks they are one and the same. Music, photography, publishing, retail etc have all worked this out. The intellectual (the song, the portrait, the novel) have all remained but the process has changed.

It gets better. The thing Legal hates is operational process. Something to tolerate at best, at worst ignore. Lack of process is one of the reasons that other heads of function look at Legal in a bemused way, “how the heck do they actually run their department?

Getting the department properly organised isn’t even on the to do list. It’s usually low, low down on the ‘the things I suppose I’ll have to do one day’ to do list. That state of mind is a collective failure not by the GC but by those who can help them. Predicting a solution in a far, far away land, to put it politely, does not help.

But process has a sting in its tail. Process throws a knowing smile back at Legal like the very last passenger who strolls onto the plane avoiding all the first aboard panic rush and says “you ain’t going anywhere far without me.”

The irony of course is that by neglecting process you ultimately diminish intellect or at best make it a painful experience. And without intellect you can’t have process. You grudgingly take the pain for that ‘trusted advice’ and because there is pretty much only one bar to sup at what can you do? Play it safe of course.

Intellectual is the safe space, the comfort zone. Process is kind of new, not what you were built to do. Jeez there are courses, report things and a whole new language. Sod that! Just dress it up with a bit of lip service, no one will notice or bother that much anyway. You are amongst friends after all. For the really daring buy the cheapest software box, keep the receipt so you can show it to the FD or whatever steering group it was agreed at. Plus the procurement boys did the pre-flight checks anyway. Didn’t they?

The telling and worrying signs are when I am told, “We know we need technology, we don’t know what we need and we don’t know who to ask.” These are not junior people telling me this. Nor are they people who don’t know tech. It bothers me that we accept the current status quo because there is little or no trust between the buyer (GC) and the supply chain (tech vendor, law firm, LPO etc etc etc). I think we are all, collectively, better than that. Much, much better than the thin veneer of press release bullshit that always teases us with possibilities but never truly declares reality.

Those words above that are frequently uttered to me are something else. That’s a human crying out for help. Do you walk on by or do you do something about it? Getting involved and changing stuff is hard, very hard but it is also rewarding. What they don’t want to hear is mumbo jumbo about deep domain expertise. What they want to hear is “It’s okay, you are not alone? I’m a bit scared too. How can we work this out, together?” And that means being human.

And us humans, we are completely unpredictable.

ps if you want a really good read on predictions here is some wisdom