Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Three Types

Lawyers often get classified by the area of law that they practice.  You're a corporate lawyer, litigator, employment lawyer, etc.  While this classification system is helpful in telling what you do, it's not the only way of classifying attorneys.  There's another classification that will go even farther in predicting the success of a lawyer on your in house team.  There are only three types - Transactional, Strategic, or Hybrid.

A Transactional lawyer is one that thrives on the day to day.  Whether it is reviewing and negotiating contracts or managing litigation, the Transactional lawyer gets stuff done.  Law teams cannot survive without this type of lawyer - someone has to do the work.  This guy is the one who will work 15 hour days if required and will be good friends with many of the rank in file in the organization.  They like him because he gets stuff done, quickly and efficiently.  He may be a 'business lawyer' in the sense that he takes business concerns into consideration when negotiating that agreement or setting that litigation strategy.  However, he doesn't think strategically.  He doesn't know how to add long term value to the organization other than doing more volume.  He'd have a hard time describing what value add the legal team provides in terms other than dollars saved on outside counsel. The transactional lawyer is best as an individual contributor or lower level manager.

On the other hand, the Strategic lawyer thinks long term.  Her every move is based on how to strategically help the company achieve it's goals.  From the structure of the contracting process to better meet the needs of the sales team to the review and analysis of new product developments to achieve the most effective regulatory compliance, she's constantly thinking of the big picture.  She'll tell you the real value of having in house legal is managing the risk on a more global level.  Setting policies and providing advice that allows the company to navigate the challenges that growth inevitably brings.  Unfortunately, she's not as good at getting the day to day done efficiently.  She spends most of her time in meetings and may have a harder time prioritizing sales contracts over less important litigation.  She's great as a leader and makes a great GC or upper manager for a larger organization.

The rarer of the three is the Hybrid.  We all like to think we're a Hybrid, but few of us actually are.  A Hybrid can spend a significant amount of time everyday doing the day to day transactional needs.  Negotiating those agreements, training with HR, managing litigation and juggling it all effectively.  They can also sit in on the meetings and provide strategic advice for the two, three and five year plans of the company.  We'd all like to be a Hybrid because there are more opportunities open for them, they can succeed at the roles of either a transactional or a strategic lawyer.  But, this person is happiest as upper manager or GC for a smaller organization where less resources tend to mean broader job descriptions and wider roles.  Often a Hybrid will evolve into a Strategic lawyer over time as the organization they're with grows and their role grows with it.

There's value in knowing which type you are, and which type you've got on your team.  Knowing that you're better at the transactional side, you should take the opportunities to get strategic experience.  Knowing that you've spent the majority of your time dealing with the strategic, you may want to dive into something transactional to keep your skills sharp and reacquaint yourself with the day to day priorities.  And knowing you are a hybrid, you should seek opportunities that allow you to do both.  So, what type are you?

1 comment:

  1. I think that the same can be said for any aspect of management, and can even extend into a person's overall personality. Joel and I joke that this is a macro vs micro type of organizational structure. A macro person looking into finances will see the overall picture - how the US is faring in relationship to other countries, where the stock markets will be in a year, even how much they need to have set aside for retirement. (This is Joel.) A micro person will be able to understand the steps necessary to achieve these goals - how individuals and companies will assist with the global economic standing of the US, what trades must be made in order to keep up with the predicted stock market changes, and how much money must be set aside from each paycheck in order to retire at an early age. (This is me.) It takes both kinds of people to make any kind of organizational structure effective.