Larger legal departments of the healthcare industry have normalized their functions. In other words, it is harder to find differences between how legal departments operate across the industry. While there are many positive results of this standardization, General Counsel are increasingly challenged in finding ways to help their department continue to evolve toward greater efficiency and a positive impact on the business. This piece will address how normalization has occurred and how legal executives can move beyond normalization to do better for their businesses.
Today’s healthcare legal departments are more uniform than ever before. Many report similar relationships with outside counsel. They are often asked to perform the same tasks by C-suite executives. And many legal officers have developed similar routines to reacting to common legal and regulatory issues. There are benefits to this change in the form of greater efficiencies drawn from shared best practices and outside counsel better understanding their responsibilities from one client to another.
This normalization presents new challenges to legal executives. Given the increased uniformity of legal departments, there is risk that other departments begin to view legal as a static cost center that requires little attention and offers little value in directing the broader business. As such, it is more important than ever for in-house legal officers to find new ways to showcase their value and innovate to improve their department and the company. A great first step is proactively reaching out to other C-suite executives, board members, and additional key stakeholders on the role of the legal department. Show executives how your department works to keep the company in the good graces of regulators. Teach them more about the intricacies of the department by attending board meetings, explaining how changes to the company impact your department, and by detailing how you seek to leverage greater value from your relationships with outside counsel.
Show executives how your department works to keep the company in the good graces of regulators.
Another aspect of departmental value that you ought to demonstrate is the cost savings your department has achieved. Increasing cost savings is an important way to differentiate your department and surprise your colleagues in a positive way. Set budgetary benchmarks for outside counsel to see if they are delivering the best value for their cost. If they are not, actively seek out a hungrier group that can. This change will show that you are serious in providing maximum value to the business, regardless of what your peers seem to be doing. A great way to see if outside counsel are meeting your needs properly is to collect and analyze data. This commitment to improving the bottom line may encourage other stakeholders to include you in broader issues of importance to the business.
Show that you are serious in getting the best value for the business, regardless of what your peers seem to be doing.
An additional way to differentiate your department is to invest in innovation. Encourage your team to get creative, think through ways to do more with the resources you have, and pitch you on how additional investments could help distinguish your team in a positive way from other legal departments in the industry.
In an era of limited budgets and increasing legal complexity, it is more important than ever to avoid complacency and work actively to create value. By showing colleagues how your legal team can improve the bottom line while doing more to avoid risk, despite standardized practices across the industry, you can lay a strong foundation for a bigger seat at the table for your team and yourself.