Article Summary:Six legal strategies every CEO should consider when business planning.
Successful CEOs in today’s business world recognize the importance of setting goals for themselves and their organizations. From establishing and attaining performance metrics to enumerating ways to gain marketshare, goal-setting is an important indicator of a company’s ability to achieve success. However, too many executives overlook one important organizational area when setting goals: utilizing their in-house legal resources effectively to chart company growth and mitigate risk.
Here are six legal strategies every CEO must consider in business planning:
1. Utilize your in-house counsel to increase company and shareholder value
Although an in-house counsel and a legal staff are commonly viewed as general and administrative (G&A) expenses, there are many areas in which an experienced in-house counsel can boost company equity, leading to an increase in shareholder value. Several examples of these contributions include:
- Drafting contracts that strengthen business relationships
- Allocating risks properly and preserving future business options
- Devising an intellectual property strategy that protects assets through the registration and defense of patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets
- Drafting, implementing and monitoring corporate governance and compliance policies
2. Have your in-house counsel manage all legal issues
Savvy CEOs rely on in-house lawyers who can address all of the day-to-day legal issues regularly facing their companies. Your corporate counsel can oversee and manage all legal matters, including relationships with outside counsel. As a result, your in-house counsel will have an intimate understanding of the challenges your company faces and provide continuing legal advice and review. This frees the time of senior management to focus on the core business of the company.
3. Include your in-house counsel in the decision-making process
Companies that benefit most from legal counsel recognize the value of preventing legal difficulties rather than reacting to them after costly mistakes have been made. Veteran in-house lawyers are experts at finding lawful ways to accomplish business goals while keeping the company out of trouble.
4. Encourage the free flow of information between management and in-house counsel
Too many companies communicate in silos that restrict the flow of critical business and legal information between in-house counsels and managers. This often results in poor decision-making and can expose your company to legal risks. Encourage your managers and in-house counsel to exchange information freely and regularly. Many smart companies create opportunities for informal and as well as formal exchanges of information.
5. Use an in-house counsel with the wisdom and courage to push back
Companies that get the most out of their legal resources employ knowledgeable and experienced in-house counsels who can handle complex legal and business issues deftly. Most importantly, these corporate counsels challenge management to expand their abilities and consider long-term planning vs. the rush of short-term thinking.
6. Identify legal knowledge gaps within your organization
Managers need to understand many areas of the law to lead operations effectively. Your in-house counsel can identify areas of the law that are most critical to your business, such as regulatory compliance. Then, they can train managers and employees on the strategic use of pertinent laws to grow your business.
Stuart Blake founded The General Counsel, bringing more than 25 years of in-house corporate legal experience from the consumer products and technology sectors, where he counseled on a wide variety of general business issues. With a proven track record of forging successful working relationships with executive management teams, Stuart was the vice president, general counsel and secretary for Kinko's, Inc. for five years. He served as vice president, general counsel and secretary for Baskin-Robbins USA Co. for six years, and spent a year as vice president and general counsel of Apex Digital, Inc. Before this role, Stuart spent six years with Burger King Corp. as corporate counsel and senior corporate counsel. Stuart serves on the board of directors of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties and the Community Services Branch of the YMCA of Orange County. For more info, visit The General Counsel.