In his presentation, Bruce Daise, Vice President at H&R Block, explained how in-house attorneys and legal departments can serve as business enablers.
According to Daise, transforming the legal function into a business enabler requires hard work and patience. Legal professionals must collaborate with multiple departments while ensuring staff members and clients receive consistent support.
"The [business enabler] approach is not a quick-fix ... It takes concerted effort over time to implement," Daise stated.
Collaborating with legal professionals can be an arduous task. Many clients demand fast, effective results. Yet legal teams must devote significant time and resources to understanding problems, making it difficult to provide immediate support.
"Sometimes, an issue that is thought of as simple by a businessperson may be much more complex," Daise said. "So we occasionally hear that the legal department is too slow."
When legal professionals gain an intimate knowledge of their respective businesses, they can ask the right questions to the right people—increasing the likelihood of fast, informed decisions.
"As the lawyer, if you don't ask just the right question, you could be missing some valuable information that could change your opinion on a particular issue," Daise noted.
"As the lawyer, if you don't ask just the right question, you could be missing some valuable information that could change your opinion on a particular issue."
Legal professionals can deliver valuable support to any organization. They'll change their perception within that organization if they can highlight how they deliver value.
"For our clients, perception is reality," Daise pointed out. "In our view, the business enabler approach is a deliberate and conscious process that is initiated by the legal department with the assumption that whatever our clients will do will be allowed."
How legal professionals approach problems may dictate their ability to become business enablers.
Legal professionals who collaborate with key stakeholders can deliver meaningful results. To accomplish this, they must engage early in the decision-making process.
"If you work at an issue hard enough, there's typically a way that you can find a path forward," Daise indicated. "In order to do that, you need to be engaged early in the [problem-solving] process."
Legal professionals must continue to help identify and manage risk as well.
"We need to make sure that we can identify risk, and if the risk is big enough, push the issue in the organization to make sure the right businesspeople are going to make the call on that issue," Daise noted.
Risk sometimes slows down the decision-making process, particularly for legal professionals.
"The [business enabler] approach is not a quick-fix approach. It takes concerted effort over time to implement."
Fortunately, legal professionals who can teach various business departments about risk engage key stakeholders throughout the decision-making process.
"There are a lot of times where the legal department can end up being that last toll gate between whether something is approved or not," Daise noted. "Then, the legal department and the corporation are put into a tough situation. And that's often when a company will take [unnecessary] risk."
Legal professionals may be able to open the lines of communication with many departments across an organization if they prioritize transparency.
Legal professionals become vital contributors when they provide visibility into the decision-making process. They'll serve as trusted sources of legal knowledge, and as a result, help other business departments make the best-possible decisions.
"Clients are going to be the ultimate decision-maker on what we're doing. Lawyers are there to provide counsel and guidance along the way and to make sure risk decisions are made at the appropriate level within a company," Daise stated.
Bruce has been a member of H&R Block’s Legal Department since 2003 and currently leads the U.S. Client Services, Compliance & International Group. Bruce has legal oversight responsibility for H&R Block’s global tax return preparation businesses. This includes legal support for marketing and advertising, franchising, strategic sourcing, and intellectual property; as well as operational responsibility for the H&R Block privacy, compliance and anti-fraud programs.
H&R Block is one of the world’s largest tax services providers offering tax return preparation services through more than 12,000 company-owned and franchised retail tax offices world-wide and through its do-it-yourself tax software solutions. Bruce obtained his J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law.