At our February Friday Live workshop, ‘Helping me, helping you – how to partner with the in house team’ Sophie Atkinson, Head of Digital UK – Legal Team, Telefónica UK Limited gave us an excellent insight into how an in house team works in terms of its relationship to its client, the business, and what they are looking for when they get external legal support. This is so important for any external legal advisers to understand – particularly for consultants. So what are the key messages and how can consultants hit the ground running?
The central message, whilst obvious, is worth re-stating: businesses value an experienced pair of helping hands who can get the job done and add value to them. They need clear, commercially-focused legal advice tailored to their particular business circumstances.
What in house teams love:
- Commercial advice – they need opinion and solutions – certainly flag risks, but put it in the context of their business (likelihood of it happening, value involved etc.).
- They need executive summary points that can be sent to the board not a detailed letter of advice, or worse a cut/paste of legislation.
- Understanding the context of where the advice fits – so be curious. Ask where the advice sits within the business.
- Getting the balance of ‘precision and polish’ correct for the work involved.
What drives them mad?
- Being overly legalistic.
- Copy-and-pasting statutes.
- No summary, no application to facts.
- Late advice for contracts – speed is vital.
- Talking over clients’ heads and not engaging – need to instill trust and confidence in the client across the business- wide range of legal experience (or not).
- Not taking a view – don’t sit on the fence. Take a position and give recommendations.
What knowledge and skills do you need to advise in the Telecoms sector?
- Great personal skills are vital for client relationships, intellectual curiosity and an approachable manner.
- The ability to translate complex legal concepts into plain language and vice versa – such as translating the impact of contract for the business.
- Understanding of the wider business imperatives such as budgets, targets and how a year is structured within a business.
- A thorough understanding the regulated sector environment.
- Financial services, other payment services, impact of block chain developments.
- Contract law and all the other aspects such as competition law, data protection.
- They need geeks! People who know how apps, APIs etc. work.
Impact of the evolving legal services market:
- Definitive move away from just instructing traditional law firms.
- In house teams are leading the way in working out who they need to do what work when.
- Fixed fees and clarity of scope of work are the order of the day.