When I landed my first in-house position over twelve years ago, I believed that my role was limited to providing legal advice to my client. When presented with a legal question, I believed that it was my job to provide possible options and to provide an explanation as to what risks were associated with each option. If asked which option I would recommend, I would routinely respond by simply stating that it was a management decision and that it was beyond my purview. As time went by, however, it became increasingly clear to me that my response was no longer acceptable. The executive level leaders with whom I worked wanted more. They wanted me to actively participate in the problem-solving process. They expected me to weigh in and make recommendations based on my understanding of the problem and the potential risk. Coming to that realization was transformative for me and it impacted how I interacted with executive level leaders moving forward. I began shifting from more than just a legal advisor. I began to become more of a strategic business partner.
Recently, I came across a book called “A New Vision for Corporate Lawyers” written by Peter Connor, Founder and CEO of Alternatively Legal Pty Ltd. Reading his book left me wondering if I needed to rethink my approach to being a strategic business partner. In his book, Conner points out that “[m]ost lawyers, and most commentators, refer to business partnering as ‘understanding the business and developing strong working relationships with… business clients’…, however, as Connor also points “[b]usiness partnering is something you do, not something you are.”
“[I]t is much more than:
– being business minded or having business acumen
– understanding the business, or
– being a business partner (the noun).”
“You can be a business partner, as many in-house lawyers are, but not engage in business partnering at all. To put it another way, if you are business partner it means you probably have a ‘seat at the table’ but business partnering focuses on what you do when you are at ‘the table’. “
“This is an expression sometimes used to describe a situation where you are considered part of the business team on an informal if not a formal basis.”
“Being a business partner is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition to engage in business partnering.”
If you are as intrigued as I am about this idea, you should consider downloading a free copy of Peter Connor’s book at https://peterconnor.legalbusinesslibrary.com/. Peter Connor can be contacted at [email protected] or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/petercon/.
Check out the full article, go to Above the Law.