The Ten Missteps to Avoid for In-House Counsel in Hyper-Growth Tech Companies

June 30, 2023

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Author: Gloria Yi Qiao

In today's emerging tech industry, in-house legal teams play a vital role. As tech quickly evolves, in-house counsel face unique challenges that require innovative solutions. In this article, we explore the common missteps that in-house counsel often make and how legal technology like Trusli can help them increase efficiency, manage risks, and ultimately play a more strategic role in your business.

1. Failing to Understand the Company’s Business

As in-house counsel, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is failing to understand the nature of your business because your legal advice will only be as good as your understanding of the business. If you don't understand the business, you won't be able to provide accurate or effective legal advice. You’ll be able to better identify and mitigate potential legal risks when you have a good grasp on the business, helping to protect the company from legal problems and financial losses. Legal advice should line up with your company's goals, so make sure the legal advice you provide helps the company achieve those goals.

2. Overreliance on Legal Jargon

Legal jargon is a common part of the in-house lawyer's vocabulary, but it’s important to remember that not everyone in the business understands it. This disconnect can create a barrier between you and other stakeholders, making it hard to communicate effectively. It’s important to translate legal jargon into language that stakeholders across the business can easily understand to make sure that everyone is on the same page and that the legal advice is clear. Remember, law is a means to facilitate business, not impede it. Always consider business needs and priorities when offering legal advice.

3. The 'Legal Police' Syndrome

In-house lawyers are typically seen as the "legal police" of the business because you’re responsible for ensuring that the business complies with all applicable laws and regulations, which can sometimes lead to being seen as obstacles to growth. As a legal professional, your role is much bigger than playing bad cop. Be a facilitator and focus on how to streamline business initiatives legally, rather than hindering them. Be proactive and identify potential legal risks early on, work with business leaders to develop risk mitigation strategies, and be open to new ideas and willing to take risks. Most importantly, make sure you’re seen as a trusted advisor who is actually helping the business succeed.

4. Slow Turnaround Times

In today's fast-paced business environment, slow turnaround times can be a major obstacle to success. This is especially true for in-house counsel, as you’re responsible for supporting the business on a wide range of matters. In a hyper-growth environment, businesses cannot afford delays, which often lead to missed opportunities, increased costs, and fractured relationships with customers, partners, and investors. As a GC, It's critical to make sure legal processes don't deter business deliverables. Leveraging legal tech can help expedite decision-making and streamline work processes. AI solutions like Trusli can help automate tasks, track requests, and manage documents to improve turnaround times.

5. Inefficient Risk Management

Risk management is a core function of in-house legal teams. It's important to carefully evaluate the potential risks of business decisions and develop a plan to mitigate them to avoid letting the business take on unnecessary risks. By managing risk well, you protect the business from financial losses, legal liability, and a tainted reputation.

6. Over-Reliance on Outside Counsel

Outside counsel can be a valuable resource for in-house counsel, but it is important not to become overly reliant on them. Hiring outside counsel can be costly and lead to a lack of control over the legal operations. It’s more cost-effective to build an efficient in-house team well-equipped to handle most issues, while reserving the most complex matters for outside counsel.

7. 'Know-it-all' Syndrome

At the same time, no one knows everything. Recognize when to get help from outside counsel for issues that fall outside your team's expertise. It's all about striking the right balance between in-house and external support.

8. Resistance to Legal Innovation and Automation

Being stuck in outdated ways of doing things hinders efficiency. The legal industry is traditionally slow to adopt new technology–probably because many legal professionals just aren’t aware of the benefits of legal technology and automation. They’re either skeptical of new technology or don’t see how it could be applied to their work without disruption. At Trusli, we’ve eliminated some of the apprehensions toward legal innovation by developing a sleek platform that can be up and running within a few hours. With our solution you can automate workflows, manage contracts, automatically create template agreements, and auto review contracts with pre-defined fallback provisions, enabling your team to focus on strategic tasks rather than repetitive manual work. Embrace legal technology as a key driver of efficiency and strategic value.

9. Lack of Cost Consciousness

A lack of cost consciousness can significantly impact the bottom line. Leverage AI to help monitor and control legal spend and stay mindful of the broader business costs when making legal decisions. To save money, streamline legal tasks by using technology to automate tasks, creating standard legal documents, and developing a process for quickly resolving legal issues. When you do need to bring in outside counsel, negotiate more favorable rates. This may involve shopping around for different law firms, comparing rates, and negotiating for discounts. Arbitration dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as mediation and arbitration, can also be a more cost-effective way to resolve legal disputes than going to court.

10. Inadequate Documentation

Good documentation is a lifesaver, especially in a fast-paced tech environment.  Utilize legal tech for efficiently managing and organizing work documents, contracts, and more. This not only helps with risk management, but it also preserves access to vital information. Be sure to regularly review and update documentation to keep it accurate. Legal tech makes this easier with task management features and reminders. With Trusli, you can easily track and update all of your documents in one place.

Avoiding these ten common missteps can significantly improve in-house counsel’s performance in hyper-growth tech companies. It's about finding the right balance between legal considerations and business needs, making timely decisions, managing risks, and using automation solutions like Trusli to streamline processes and increase efficiency.