A General Counsel’s First Steps: What to Focus on When Joining a New Organization

March 6, 2019 • Legal • 3 minutes

Joining a new organization as a general counsel is exciting—but it also comes with lots of work to do, especially in the first 30, 60, and 90 days. Here are some of the first things a GC should do when they get to an organization to optimize their time.

1. Schedule time with the executive team and board members.

It’s important to understand the priorities leadership has, as well as listen to concerns and expectations for Legal. Knowing what past pain points are, what motivates teams, and what they want to see going forward will be crucial for success. This is the time to set the foundation for the reputation Legal will have. Setting a reputation of being builders, not blockers, will encourage collaboration and enthusiasm for the Legal team.

Additionally, knowing the full history of the company and what the current experience with Legal is will help provide visibility into where processes and impressions can improve. This information will be useful not only to discover where there is potential to optimize and plan out new processes, but to serve as a baseline for measuring future success. Listening as much as possible at the beginning of a role will help GCs built trust and be able to create processes that will have adoption across the business as needs are met. This listening sets GCs up to contribute to the overall business strategy, not just manage Legal needs.

2. Learn what’s working and where there are opportunities to improve.

After conversations with leadership and the board, the next step is deciding what changes should be made, restructuring where necessary, and rolling out these changes. Part of the interviews above should be discovering what the organizational structure is, how information channels work, and where Legal fits in to help plan for the rollout of changes and optimization.

Legal often has the reputation of being the gatekeeper of agreements—usually a gatekeeper that says no or inhibits possibility. Yet in reality, Legal is a creator and leader making amazing things happen. Coming in and transforming the impression to be more of a counselor, strategist, and resource will increase compliance while building trust.

3. Review the company’s contract management process.

Contracts are a core part of a business—they are the agreements driving change and moving things forward. Making sure these agreements are created and managed well is directly tied to an organization’s ability to streamline processes, maintain compliance, and increase revenue. To truly ensure these agreements are successful, automation is key. The good news is, in today’s modern world, moving faster while increasing compliance is possible. A contract lifecycle management platform is the best way to keep a company’s organizations running smoothly, so there is time to focus on the main goal of opening up possibilities through agreements.

Asking team members questions about accessibility, repositories, and current workflows will help determine what needs to be improved. Since everyone from Legal to Marketing creates agreements in an organization, hearing what works and the pain points will help define the decisions going forward.

Starting a new role is exciting, and while it may seem necessary to start working immediately, it’s important to take the time to learn what the history is and ensure everyone’s needs are heard and can be addressed. Many organizations hire in-house counsel to help them through a survival mode, but by taking the time and understanding the needs across an entire organization, a successful general counsel can move the business from surviving to thriving.

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