September 25, 2014
Mapping a successful corporate legal strategy
Posted by David Orozco

In our last post, we discussed our framework for legal strategy called the five pathways. Today, we’d like to address how companies navigate within these pathways to attain the best results. As we mentioned in our MIT Sloan article, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a legal strategy. Companies and industries are simply too diverse for such a simplistic solution. Instead, what we find is that legal strategy often is dependent on internal and external variables, such as company size, corporate culture, regulation, pace of technological change and the company’s maturity stage.

That is not to say, however, that a large and mature company in a regulated industry cannot cross the divide from risk management to a value creation pathway. One well established transportation company recently engaged in a strategic and cross functional (legal and finance) assessment of freight contracts to evaluate which ones to renew, cancel or negotiate. The company, which was operating at full capacity, changed its legal strategy to optimize its operations for the near and medium terms. This type of strategic contract assessment clearly fits within the value pathway.

To cross the divide and move from a risk management pathway (avoidance, compliance, prevention) to a value-enabling pathway (value and transformation) we suggest that C-level executives must view the law as an important and enabling resource for achieving strategic goals. This perspective requires a strong working knowledge of law, or legal astuteness, and organizational commitments such as the deployment of resources and authority to develop and test legal strategy.

Our research suggests that successful legal strategies require a champion, or what we refer to as a chief legal strategist. This is someone who is authorized by top management and recognized across the organization as the point person for driving legal strategies. Sometimes that individual is the general counsel, such as Twitter’s former chief legal officer, Alexander Macgillivray, who once stated that fighting for free speech is more than a good idea, it is a competitive advantage for the company. We find, however, that an associate general counsel is more often able to devote time to legal strategy execution. These individuals often possess strong legal and business fluency, leadership capabilities and the ability to work dynamically in teams.   

For our next post, we'll offer more examples of companies operating within each pathway.

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August 16, 2008
The Sidebar Experiments and "Thinking by Writing"
Posted by Gordon Smith

Last month we launched our new blog design, which included a couple of sidebar experiments. Having used Twitter since then, I have learned a few things.

First, on a surface level, my life isn't very interesting. Answering the question "What are you doing?" can get pretty dull when you do basically the same thing day after day. How many times can someone read (or write), "preparing for class" or whatever? But if you dig down a bit, it can get more interesting. Attempting to write something brief and insightful on cases or articles or news stories that I am reading, for example, sounds like a nice way to extract some learning from all of this activity.

Second, this sort of writing is why Twitter is called "micro-blogging," and that seems a lot more interesting than most of what I have been writing. Rather than going through the somewhat clunky Typepad interface to blog something really brief (have you noticed we don't have many short posts on this site?), I can type something into Twitter and post within a few seconds. That's pretty cool.

Third, Twitter doesn't have a convenient way to link, and most Twitter users embed links with tinyurl. But, of course, we also have our linkroll, which I use not only as a means of publicizing internet content, but as a repository of stories that I might want to access later.

So I am starting to get into a routine. When I open my Firefox browser, it brings up ten tabs (it takes a long time to load on a slow connection!), including Typepad and Twitter. The browser also has the Firefox add-on, which makes linking super-easy. So I am ready to blog from the word "Go!" And all of these services are on my desktop all day, so when I run across something interesting, I can just link it or tweet it ... or, if it really grabs me, I can blog it.

Now, before you run to the streets in a spontaneous outpouring of enthusiasm over my newfound routine, remember that this blog is ultimately about thinking by writing. It seems to me that's an idea worth spreading. (With a nod to one of my favorite websites, TED.)

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