Moving from Cost Center to Collaborator: the Evolving Role of In-House Legal Teams


Most in-house counsel I talk to want to be strategic business partners, and recognize negatives perceptions in business-side about lawyers can make that challenging. Lawyers are often perceived as roadblocks to business rather than partners to reaching business objectives. And they're seen as cost-centers rather than partners in helping reduce expenses across the board.

Gregg Wirth's "Moving from Cost Center to Collaborator: the Evolving Role of In-House Legal Teams" covers discussions from the “From Cost Center to Collaborator: Aligning Legal Department Functions with the Greater Enterprise” panel at the first-ever Corporate Counsel Leadership Forum, sponsored by Thomson Reuters’ Legal Executive Institute. The panel was led by Firoz Dattu, CEO at AdvanceLaw (and a classmate of mine at Harvard Law School), and included Steven Rapp, Vice President and General Counsel at Unilever North America; Chaim Levin, Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel for the Americas at Tradition Group; and Karen Gray, Chief Operating Office for the Americas at Christie's Inc.

The panel's focus was how in-house counsel can become better strategic partners in the business (which not confidently advances the attorneys own legal careers by making them more valuable contributors within their current company and more highly sought-after by other employers). Among their suggestions:

  • Integrate into the business as much as possible

  • Get involved early in decision-making within business units

  • Understand business goals