LEADING A LEGAL TEAM? THIS BOOK CAN HELP YOU BUILD A BETTER ONE
An appreciation by Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers and Phillip Taylor MBE, Head of Chambers and Reviews Editor, “The Barrister”
If you manage a legal team, either in-house or within a law firm going for growth, you need Bjarne Tellmann’s new book, the most recent and certainly celebrated title from Globe Law and Business unveiled at a Wildy book launch in the summer of 2017.
The name of the publishers is curiously appropriate here, because the book is as much about business as it is about law. Taking a businesslike approach, it is written from a global perspective by an author who, in addition to his impressive academic credentials, offers readers the benefit of his experience running legal teams in multi-national companies.
But this is more than a mere ‘how to’ book. It is of a much higher order, dealing as it does with strategy, communication, integration of disparate skills, cost efficiencies, new technologies and more. Bjarne is an author who can certainly produce nimble, varied and often refreshingly original solutions to the challenges legal teams encounter in a global business environment where change is the only constant.
Referring to the book’s sub-title, ‘battle-tested strategies’ aren’t produced by sudden magical light bulb moments. They obviously emanate from the author’s international experience as an academic, and in practice as general counsel for some of the world’s largest multi-nationals, notably Coca-Cola and Kimberley Clark. In his current role, he leads a 170-strong team as General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer at Pearson plc, a FTSE 100 company with 30,000 employees in seventy countries.
So, when does someone like this get the time to write a book like this and why? Apparently, the germ of the idea came to him when a talented colleague of his struggling with a new and demanding leadership role asked, ‘Is there a manual that will help me do this job?’
What was needed then, was what most of us who aspire to leadership positions need now: plain, practical advice on such matters as handling multiple crises… cutting costs… managing risk… handling difficult clients... and generally coping with change brought about by -- in the author’s words -- globalization, regulatory expansion and risk convergence. These factors, he adds, have ‘raised the stakes and made the job more complex.’
Lawyers, says Tellmann, must cultivate an understanding of client needs and a passion for the businesses with which such clients are involved. ‘It is no longer enough’, he warns, ‘to sit behind a desk in an ivory tower and dispense legal advice. Doing that is a sure-fire way to become a corporate dinosaur.’
It is precisely to avoid such a dismally Jurassic fate that you should have a read of this book, whether you work in-house or within a law firm. You’ll find much comment, by the way, on the linkages and overlap between the in-house legal team and its outside legal advisers. See the chapter on ‘Selecting the Right Partners’. In ‘building an outstanding legal team’ personnel issues are paramount and these of course are extensively discussed.
Whether you work in a legal environment or not, or whether you are in management, or in a supporting role, there is indeed a manual out there that can help you do your job even better. Bjarne Tellmann has written it -- fortunately in a down-to-earth, accessible style -- and you should read it as his engaging personality and infectious support for these building strategies shines through so well in his text.