It sucks being a cost center. While a good General Counsel can argue all day long about how much value the legal department is adding to the company, at the end of the day her legal department is still a cost center to the business. And if the business only sees you as just a cost center, then you will line up with the rest of the cost centers when the budget axe comes falling or the layoff machine gets cranked up. This means all in-house lawyers should be focused on how to constantly market the department to the business. This is important because while Legal is a cost center, it is – hopefully- an extremely valuable cost center and one the business believes delivers high value to the company (especially when compared to the cost of engaging outside counsel). Moreover, if the legal department can show that it is responsible for money coming into the company or significant savings vs. forecast, then you have an even better story to tell. Legal departments with a good story to tell occasionally get additional resources (as rare as that may be).
Unfortunately, the only experience most in-house lawyers have with the marketing of legal services are the “pitch” materials from Law Firm A or Law Firm B. Those materials don’t really work for in-house lawyers trying to show the importance and value added by the legal department. This edition of “Ten Things” will discuss some basic and straight-forward ways you can “market” the legal department to the business in order to help them understand what the department does, the value it brings to the company, along with developing friends and allies throughout the entire company – never a bad thing for a “cost center” to have in its pocket: