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3 Principles to Turn You into a Super Efficient Legal Counsel

20 May 2020
Adrien van den Branden

As a business lawyer, I used to think being busy was part of the job.

More often than not, I found myself burning the midnight oil to crunch out a document on time for a deal. It is hard to precisely pinpoint the reasons why I kept on doing this over and over again... Deep down, I knew it sucked staying late at night alone at my desk. But after a few years working in a corporate law firm, your brain develops a natural tendency to post-rationalize. "That's a lawyer's way of life" you end up whispering to yourself. After a few years you eventually become a prisoner of your own self-image.

My sweet escape

After a while the "adrenaline of the deal" didn't cut it anymore.

So I moved to an in-house position at a tech company. The transition didn't go very smoothly I must say (you can read more about what I've learned from the experience).

Suddenly surrounded by engineering minds, I became fascinated with how tech people approached their work. They were not trying to work as many hours as possible like I used to do as a lawyer. Tech people were obsessed with efficiency. Day in day out there were actively trying to work less while achieving more. This train of thought humbled me and inspired me to change.

Being efficient instead of being busy

As lawyers we are not trained to be efficient. This is partly because of law firm economics. In a world of billable hours, working more means earning more. But when you work in-house, that paradigm changes. Working more means spending more.

So I took a moment to reflect on what it meant to be a legal counsel. I wanted to build a legal function that I would not feel ashamed to transfer to someone else. My idea was to set up a legal function that anyone could pick up after my time. "Anyone" meaning anyone i.e. not any other legal counsel or lawyer. But even my colleagues from sales, marketing, operations and HR.

" I wanted to build a legal function that I would not feel ashamed to transfer to someone else."

I got reading and talked to many legal professionals. I realized that legal people want to be fully recognized for their contribution. Spanning all industries and jurisdictions, legal minds want to shine within their organizations by embracing better and more integrated ways of working.

LegalOps, the promised land

During my research, I discovered a worldwide initiative called LegalOps.

LegalOps empowers legal people to think about their mission both in terms of protecting and growing the business. The success of an in-house legal function is measured by how well legal operations are run. LegalOps is about achieving three principles: visibility, productivity and autonomy. LegalOps is about efficiency.

LegalOps empowers legal people to think about their mission both in terms of protecting and growing the business

This immediately struck a chord with me.

So I did my homework. I summarized my vision of a modern legal function and discussed it with my core team of managers and operations people. We all agreed we would change a few things to drive our legal operations better.

We started off by formalizing the three principles behind the LegalOps manifesto. We then defined for each principle actionable rules and practices. We kept refreshing those rules and practices regularly, reflecting on our day-to-day legal work.

Today, our legal function is built around the three principles of visibility, productivity and autonomy. I will explore each of those principles in a series of articles which I will release in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Cannot wait? Tell me which principle you are the most intrigued to find about. Or is there one key principle missing?

Start off the conversation by reaching out to adrien at

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