At a time when it is critical for companies to determine value in every operational aspect of business, even corporate lawyers are forced to think and perform more like strategic business professionals in a line of work traditionally focused more on legal agendas than on management concerns. Corporations are increasingly employing more competitively priced in-house counsel and mandating that they transform the company’s legal function into a thriving profit center.
“This trend is challenging company attorneys to be businesspeople first and law experts second,” says Robert Johnson Esq., managing counsel of the Workers’ Compensation Practice Group at Oak Brook, Illinois-based fast food giant McDonald’s Corp.
Because traditional legal education doesn’t teach business strategy, Johnson contends that many lawyers acquire what little business aptitude they have on the job.
Johnson chose to enroll in the Mini-MBA for In-house Counsel program offered by Boston University School of Management, in conjunction with the Association of Corporate Counsel
(www.acc.com). The two-and-a-half-day, on-campus class explores the fundamental nexus between corporate legal services and overall business operations.
Johnson credits the course with improving his business proficiencies in critical disciplines affecting the marketplace. He drives bottom-line value with his legal department by practicing the following:
Balancing the role of adviser with that of business partner.
“Managers want a partner, not a parent. They don’t want to hear why they can’t, only how they can,” states Johnson. He requires his staff and outside lawyers to work in the company’s restaurants to help them see the big picture, gain a greater understanding of business dynamics, and learn how to communicate in management’s language, all in an effort to be better collaborators.