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Most of my friends know that I really enjoy Halloween. While the free candy part is pretty good, I have always liked a good scare. And this time of the year is full of them. Horror movies are a great example. I especially like that the jolt of adrenalin, increasing heartbeat, and sweaty palms you get when you’re watching some knuckle-head fraternity boy decide that he must go down into the dark basement to see “what’s making those weird noises.” Hey, moron, we know what’s going on down there: It’s a monster that’s going to rip your head off and splatter the walls with what little brains you apparently have! Horror movies are fun because you know it’s not real and nothing bad has really happened. There are some scares I don’t like, however. Driving on Texas highways is one. Some of the others are things I have seen at work. I have been an in-house lawyer for a long time. That means I have seen a lot of things. Some good. Some bad. Some downright scary. As I start to think ahead to 2018 and my “to do” list, I have been thinking back on these scary things. I want to be proactive in 2018 and make sure the Legal Department is taking steps to keep bad things from happening or planning what to do if they do happen. Being proactive (and not reactive) is when in-house lawyers add the most value to the company. In honor of Halloween, this edition of “Ten Things” identifies ten things that should scare the bejesus out of in-house lawyers:
[Ten Things has been nominated for a “Best Blog” award. You can vote by clicking here.]
Fall is my favorite time of the year. The weather’s cooler, the trees change color, and football (American style) permeates the airwaves. If you’re big into Halloween (and I am) you get to decorate the yard with zombies and gravestones and then hand out free candy to the neighborhood kids – and snag a few Twix bars for yourself. However, there’s more going on in the Fall than wearing a Nebraska Cornhuskers sweatshirt, admiring the foliage, and handing out candy. If you are in-house counsel, you know this time of year means one particularly thankless task: preparing an annual Legal Department budget. Adding to the fun is that you must figure out in October what you’ll be spending in August of the next year. But no one in the business is crying any tears for Legal. They are all going through the same process. And as we all know, Finance is telling you to be prepared to cut spending (or at best be flat year-over-year). Somehow, someway, you’re going to have to find a way to come up with a spending plan that tries to account for the knowns and unknowns associated with providing legal services to the company.
I recently got back in the in-house game and took on the General Counsel role for Marketo. Which means after two+ years of not having to worry about legal budgets, here I am with my dry-erase markers and my big white board of numbers planning for 2018 legal spend. And as I sit staring at this mess of numbers, I figure that there might be in-house lawyers out there who have never prepared an annual budget, are going through it for the first time, or are just interested in learning how others do it. While there is a lot written about budgeting for specific legal matters, I found very little written about preparing an annual budget. So, this edition of “Ten Things” will walk you through the process I am going through right now as I prepare our annual Legal Department budget: