Mark Smolik is VP, General Counsel, at DHL Supply Chain Americas where he leads the legal, commercial contracts management, compliance, and economic development teams. More on Smolik below.
I’ve learned through experience that it can be hard to let go of a cherished initiative or goal. Lawyers are typically conservative by nature. I’m no exception. As in-house counsel, we learn to be vigilant stewards and protectors of the companies that employ us. For most of my in-house career, practicing law was the most important aspect of my job. No longer is that the case for me or for my team. When recruiting lawyers, I look for people who bring an entrepreneurial approach to the practice of law…business people who happen to have a law degree. People whose attitudes and demeanor are aligned with the businesses they will serve.
Admittedly, this is a vast change from the talent I recruited years ago. Back then, I looked for lawyers. Now, I want people who deeply understand that we are an organization run by entrepreneurs who put customer service at the forefront of all that we do as an organization, and we expect to be held accountable for our performance.
It is incumbent on today’s GCs, and those aspiring to be such, to communicate the value their teams deliver to the businesses they serve. Business leaders typically report on key metrics that seek to measure the success of their operations: P&L results, gross and net revenue, EBIT, units sold/installed, customer service feedback, among others. It should be no different with the legal department. Most everything we do as in-house counsel helps drives sales, support or enhance customer service and protect the bottom line. Beyond the lawsuits fought, cases won or settled, deals closed and counsel offered, today’s GC should evaluate what performance standards or metrics will help communicate that value. It’s an entrepreneurial approach to the practice of law, fueled by the role of the GC as a business leader, not just a lawyer. I’ve implemented successfully a number of such metrics since becoming a GC, some of which are mentioned later in this article.
Changing Dynamics of the Legal Industry
Corporate law departments of decades past primarily acted as liaisons between their organizations and the company’s outside counsel. Legal work was almost entirely outsourced, and the vast majority of legal spend was devoted to outside counsel. With growing sophistication, greater business savvy and new budget models, legal departments today insource the majority of their work.
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About the Author
Mark Smolik is VP, General Counsel, at DHL Supply Chain Americas. Previously, Smolik served as Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Chief Ethics Officer of Safelite Autoglass, where he also led the Human Resources and Government Affairs teams. Prior to Safelite, Smolik served as Senior Corporate Counsel with The Sherwin-Williams Company. Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here to view Smolik’s LinkedIn.