Maximising impact: how can in-house lawyers raise their internal profile?

Making yourself known in the business is a good way for an in-house lawyer to extend their reach and influence. Mila Trezza of, shares three ways to make yourself more visible and succeed.
A woman with blonde hair, dressed in business casual, smiles in front of a room of people, holding a clipboard.
Photograph: miniseries

Not every business person fully understands the role and contributions of in-house lawyers. Various reasons may contribute to this.

Some colleagues may have gained little experience working with legal teams, a surprising fact despite their seniority in the organisation.

Others might hold unsatisfactory perceptions due to past interactions with lawyers.

Low visibility may also result from the legal team being newly established or stretched thin by the day-to-day, making opportunities to showcase their work sporadic and low priority.

Years of conversations with business colleagues who were hesitant to "involve the lawyers" have helped unveil some common sentiments.

There was a general concern that involving lawyers or bringing them to meetings might "delay matters", "overcomplicate things", "problem-multiply", or altogether "send the wrong message to the other party".

One conversation, in particular, stood out. A senior manager, unaware of my legal background, casually commented, "If we hand it over to the lawyers, don’t expect to see it for the next three months".

If you truly wish to elevate your team’s profile, understanding these perceptions is important.

Setting aside situations where valid complaints exist, this article focuses on in-house lawyers and legal teams looking to raise their internal profile, showcase their full value and, ultimately, maximise their impact.

1. Step into their shoes

It’s key to pinpoint the real challenge at hand to enhance the visibility and value of the contributions of your team.

Your challenge goes beyond seeking appreciation for your hard work.

Your goal is to serve your organisation better, ensure that internal stakeholders understand how lawyers support them, increase efficiencies, and ultimately maximise the impact your team’s knowledge, experience, and capabilities can make for the organisation.

To achieve this, begin by stepping into the shoes of your business colleagues who may not fully grasp the contributions lawyers can make.

View things from their perspective. Remember that what may be obvious to you may be less so for your non-legal colleagues.

For example, lawyers swim in their element when it comes to legal analysis and the numerous strings they need to pull together before offering their advice.

In this case, aim to be more granular about each step.

For instance, in a project update meeting, instead of reporting, “We are still looking into this issue, but we should be done by the end of the week”, explain:

“We have broken down your questions into three issues that require our legal analysis: issue number one, number two and number three.

"For issues one and two, we rely on our in-house expertise. Issue number three requires external input. We have selected and instructed the external lawyers who will assist us, received specialist advice, and are now finalising the position.

"Our advice will be ready by the end of the week.”

Being clearer about your team’s workstreams and purpose invites more collaboration.

It also establishes a transparent image of the legal team, ensuring that your contributions are neither obscure nor incomprehensible.

Others may hesitate to rely on your expertise without a clear understanding of your actions.

2. Don’t just say it. Show it.

Consider the following scenario: a senior commercial colleague is used to working and sending drafts independently without involving the legal team until a late stage, which limits meaningful legal input opportunities.

Rather than explaining the vital role of lawyers in your organisation and the importance of a legal review, demonstrate it.

Here are practical ways to showcase your value rather than over-relying on just talking about it:

  • rather than suggesting you could revise and provide comments on the draft, send a marked-up document with your comments clearly explained
  • instead of saying you’d like to attend a meeting and contribute various points, share the high-level points you intend to make
  • rather than stating your extensive experience with a certain issue, call a meeting to present it and offer possible solutions
  • instead of flagging that you receive many of the same questions, set up a workshop where your team goes through the exact questions and provides comprehensive answers
Ultimately, what your non-legal colleagues need most is a first-hand positive experience with your expertise, knowledge and capabilities. Not a lecture about it.

3. Speak their language: use more figures

If part of the understanding to showcase involves making the volume of the work you review and the teams you provide legal support to more visible, communicate this using your internal client’s language.

Use figures, statistics and data. Communicate more using PowerPoint and Excel, in addition to Word documents and emails, to convey your ideas and points.

Offer support in a manner that visually resonates with business people.

For example, instead of stating that:

  • you receive "many queries from the procurement department which the legal team continues to answer promptly", indicate that you receive, on average, 60 queries per month, and that your response time is 24 to 48 hours
  • the legal team has "reviewed an increasing number of agreements this year", indicate that in 2023 you have reviewed over 150 agreements, representing a 30% increase compared to 2022

4. Escape the ‘they need to change first’ trap

Finally, to drive progress, take initiative and pave the way to progress.

In the dynamics of every organisation and relationship, waiting for others to change before moving forward perpetuates what Stephen Covey describes as the "downward spiral of co-dependency".

Waiting for ‘them’ to change or understand you first justifies the others’ behaviour.

To showcase the full value of your legal team’s contribution, lead the way.

Ensure your business colleagues see your team in action on multiple occasions, be clear on how your team actively supports the business goals and strategy, and communicate the tangible results you contributed to.

It’s your proactivity, combined with the proactivity of every team member, that is the magic ingredient in raising the profile of your in-house legal team.

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Mila Trezza offers executive and leadership coaching for lawyers and legal teams.

Take a look at Mila's Coaching Lawyers website

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