In a book about the future of in-house lawyers, you would expect contributions from general counsel.
This collection of essays extends to academics, consultants, in-house lawyers from public institutions and a City law firm. Together, they examine what is expected of an in-house lawyer and, more importantly, how and where the in-house lawyer adds value to the business.
The premise is that the in-house lawyer’s role is undergoing a metamorphosis. Gone are the days of unsung back-office work; instead, the book paints a picture of an increasingly involved and evolving landscape. The contributors agree that in-house legal teams are growing in size and accepting work of a much greater complexity. This is reinforced in the chapter on ethical challenges faced by in-house lawyers, as the sophistication of their role and activities increases (as identified by Richard Moorhead, University College London, and Dr Steven Vaughan, University of Birmingham).
This slim volume of 20 chapters contains contributions from the general counsel of significant institutions, such as Royal Dutch Shell, Network Rail and Carillion, many of whom identify similar themes. In-house legal should: provide strategic direction to their business in order to prosper; think creatively about how to answer business problems (identifying opportunities for standardisation and/or automation); and in some of the biggest teams look beyond the legal arena to contribute to revenue.
General editor: Richard Tapp
£79, Law Society Publishing
While this is a topical and timely subject, the book perhaps suffers from a lack of analysis about why the in-house role is changing so rapidly, and the choices made by junior lawyers that are fuelling the changes. The contributions, taken holistically, give an excellent overview of the thinking of key movers, but the depth of review never quite answers the question of why that more strategic role is necessary in the current climate.
Hints are present: a move to bring previously outsourced work back in-house, as the post-2008 recovery and corresponding increase in work makes it cost-efficient to build an internal legal team; while more complexity, especially in the regulatory sphere, requires a skilled and independent legal team.
But that is perhaps unfair. The book’s aim is to provide a series of op-ed pieces contributing to the discussion about in-house law within a wider context of the future of law. In that regard it succeeds admirably.
Tom Garbett is a solicitor