The Role of a Head Of Legal & Head Of Legal Department

July 5, 2024

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What is the Head of Legal & the Head of the Legal Department? 

The role of the head of legal/head of the legal department may have some responsibilities that overlap with that of a General Counsel (GC), but they are distinctly different. The title “head of legal” may sometimes be used interchangeably with GC in smaller companies, but it is distinct and not as senior as the GC role. This role is often a more narrowly focused legal role without the same level of strategic business involvement or C-suite status that GCs and Chief of Legal (CLO) positions typically have. This is because this role typically reports to the CFO/COO rather than directly to the CEO, limiting their influence and access to high level strategic discussions. 

For startups and growing companies, hiring a head of legal is often seen as the starting point in developing a robust and fully operating legal department. Starting with a head of legal allows these organizations to bring legal expertise at a lower cost while reserving the option to hire a more senior GC or CLO as the company matures.

The in-house legal team is composed of various roles, each with specific responsibilities that contribute to the overall legal health and strategy of the organization. Below are other related roles within in-house legal teams:

Associate Corporate Counsel General Counsel
Head of Legal & Legal Department Chief Legal Officer
Corporate Paralegal Contract Paralegal

What are the responsibilities of the Head of Legal & Head of the Legal Department? 

While this role may have overlapping responsibilities with a GC or CLO, the rolle of the head of legal is less senior, and as a result is less involved with company leadership. Below are some  of the following key responsibilities for this role: 

  • Leadership & management: This role is in charge of leading the legal team, typically supervising more junior lawyers in all legal corporate affairs. They must also implement key legal processes across the department from legal drafting, negotiations, and commercial settlement agreements. 
  • Budget management: The head of legal is responsible for overseeing the legal department’s budget and resources, making sure costs stay within budget. Managing the budget requires both financial acumen and legal expertise, ensuring that it aligns the budget with the organization’s overall strategic business goals. 
  • Training & knowledge sharing: Individuals in this role ensure the circulation of information on relevant laws and policies across the business and deliver training on legal issues. 
  • Litigation oversight: This role manages the company’s litigation matters, including working with external counsel when necessary. 
  • Corporate governance: The head of legal will oversee corporate governance matters and ensure compliance with corporate laws. 
  • Compliance: This role ensures that there are efficient compliance systems in place that are in adherence with applicable laws, regulations, and even internal policies. This can include making sure the company is in regulation with policies such as anti-bribery and corruption, financial transaction compliance, and more. 
  • Contract Management: The head of legal typically provides guidance on contract drafting and negotiation, with helping to draft, vet, and negotiate on contracts and legal documents that come through to the legal team. They also ensure that all contracts are up-to-date and compliant with internal policies and regulatory requirements. 

How can legal technology help individuals advance in this role? 

The head of legal has goals that are aimed at not only ensuring legal compliance and risk management, but also positioning themselves as a valuable strategic partner within the organization. Unlike GCs, this role does not typically provide strategic input. This role would benefit from implementing a legal department software that would align with the company’s overall business goals. 

A technology that would help the head of legal unlock enhanced data and analytics a legal analytics software with a visualization platform. This advanced legal tech solution provides data analytics capabilities that allow leads to gain valuable insights from their departments data. This can help inform legal strategy and help identify trends or areas for improvement. 

Another useful technology for the head of legal is a legal front door software. While this role is not directly responsible for the intake and triage process, their role is crucial in shaping how the intake and triage process functions within the legal department. Implementing a technology can help remove those bottlenecks that might make it perceived as a cost center. Having a digital legal front door, so to speak, helps legal to optimize its resources and save time through legal intake automation. The front door not only organizes and allocates legal matters to the best suited lawyer, but also allows some of that work to get done in a self-serve and automated matter, lawyers can ensure that they are always working on tasks that are high value and best suited to each lawyer.

How can Checkbox help? 

Checkbox provides the head of legal software through intake and matter management. Our platform centralizes all legal matters, documents, and files to provide lawyers with a single source of truth for their legal operations. This comprehensive view helps them to gain visibility into legal performance and key metrics to assess the workload of their legal departments. 

Discover how Checkbox can help streamline the work for the head of legal by exploring our interactive demo to see the benefits firsthand.

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