David Lancelot, Head of Legal, eBay Classifieds Group, shared his thoughts on the modern in-house lawyer and what it takes for attorneys to contribute to a company’s decision-making process in his keynote presentation to Argyle’s General Counsel membership at the 2016 Chief Legal Officer Leadership Forum in San Francisco on April 14. In his presentation, “Next Generation Lawyering – Being an Effective Modern In-House Lawyer,” Lancelot explained how an in-house lawyer can gain and leverage a voice in today’s corporate boardroom.
So what does it take to be an effective in-house lawyer? Lancelot kicked off his presentation by exploring how in-house legal teams can build a goal-oriented strategy, and, most importantly, the importance of developing these goals in alignment with other executives to complement the business’ mission.
Lancelot further touched on how a company can deploy a “philosophy of legal support” that guarantees its model of legal support is integrated into all aspects of its business successfully. This philosophy ensures a business’ in-house lawyers can become more effective and help a company accomplish its goals consistently.
Ideally, a business should strive to run its legal organization in the same way it manages its day-to-day operations. Accomplishing this goal, however, may require significant time and resources. Lancelot further noted that today’s in-house lawyers should not serve as in-house law firms. Instead, Lancelot recommended that legal executives cultivate an environment in which these attorneys are viewed as members of a team within an organization, further contributing to the legal team’s alignment with the business and it’s principal goals.
“You’ve got your seat at the table. Now, it’s about owning your seat at the table.”
No department is an island, and in-house legal teams are no exception. In-house lawyers who understand their roles within an organization can become valuable contributors immediately.
“Being on the team allows you to be in the room and to be partners in the business so you don’t get to the point where [executives] call you up and say, ‘We’ve got a legal issue,'” Lancelot said. “For me, there’s a lot of value in being on the team.”
An in-house legal team requires guidance too, and lawyers who collaborate with one another can establish goals that correspond to the organization’s. Also, in-house lawyers must develop goals that prove the value of these professionals to a business.
In-house lawyers can serve as leaders within their organizations, especially if these professionals highlight their value to their peers.
Participating in business meetings and doing everything possible to gain a seat at the management table is paramount for today’s in-house lawyer. And with the ability to contribute to a company’s decision-making process, an in-house attorney can help the business make ongoing improvements.
Furthermore, trust remains crucial in businesses worldwide, particularly when it comes to an in-house legal team.
Although executives may be tempted to avoid in-house lawyers at all costs, attorneys that can show their peers how they support the organization can build long-lasting partnerships with various departments.
“I think you build trust and personal connections by working closely with the business people,” Lancelot said. “By sitting with the business, you can work through crises.”
Meanwhile, in-house lawyers may need to be patient when it comes to gaining a seat in the corporate boardroom.
But in-house lawyers that make their presence felt throughout all departments within an organization can accelerate the process of becoming key contributors to a company’s decision-making process.
“The goal is to be invited onto the management team,” Lancelot noted. “Or, it’s asking for your seat at the table.”
After in-house lawyers gain a seat at the management table, they must continue to provide legal guidance to help their organizations overcome a vast array of legal challenges.
“Being on the team allows you to be in the room and to be partners in the business.”
Legalities may be difficult to understand, but in-house lawyers can serve as experts within an organization who can help their peers better understand how to manage numerous legal issues. These attorneys also should devote substantial time and resources to learn about a business and ensure this company can reduce its legal risks, both now and in the future.
“You’ve got your seat at the table. Now, it’s about owning your seat at the table,” Lancelot said.
In-house lawyers should maintain a broad perspective when they identify a business’ legal challenges as well.
In a corporate boardroom, in-house lawyers are members of a team and are asked to provide recommendations and suggestions that can help a company thrive for years to come. And even though these attorneys can offer substantial legal insights into a variety of business concerns, they must work toward helping the company achieve its big-picture goals.
Ultimately, this approach to a company’s decision-making process empowers in-house lawyers to become true business leaders.
“You’re a business leader at this point,” Lancelot said. “You’re not necessarily the lawyer in the room.”
As the Head of Legal for the eBay Classifieds Group, David acts as the General Counsel to the global executive team. David manages a global team of lawyers based in Europe, North America and APAC. David is based at eBay’s HQ in Silicon Valley.
Prior to his role as eCG Head of Legal, David worked at Baker & McKenzie, Amazon.co.uk and Discovery Networks in London. In addition, he acted as the General Counsel and Head of Government Affairs for QVC UK for nearly half a decade.
David is an alumnus of the University of Florida (both undergrad and College of Law), where he participated in an exchange program with the University of Leiden. He is a member of the FL, NY and CA Bar Associations and is an English Solicitor. He also holds an LLM from the University of London in Communications and Technology Law.