Whenever the legal team is called in the business folks seem to groan. That is bad. If the legal team is painful to work with either they are not functioning properly OR your approach to legal is off. Think about four things: (1) why you have in-house counsel; (2) when to bring them in; (3) who they are; and (4) how to best use them.
1. The value add of in-house is to dedicate all their time to and truly know your specific business. Their function is to reduce unreasonable risk and streamline deals. They are meant to serve as advisors. Legal is not the boss of the company or final authority but rather teammates to help the business succeed.
2. Bring them in early. The better in the loop legal is the more they can prepare, start thinking about it, and advise you of things to focus on or avoid, and how long it might take. They are meant to be a value add. Keeping them in the dark will slow your deals down.
3. Counsel should be pragmatic, business minded legal professionals. If they see themselves apart from the company then they should go back to a firm. They must multi-task, be resourceful, and understand their function, set out in 1. They should always be thinking about how they can make something work for you BUT if the deal really is bad or the terms unreasonable then you should listen to them. Avoid counsel that postures, is risk adverse, or who puts ego above the company, or is a “yes man” or “no man”. They should be able to communicate complex issues to both lawyers and non-lawyers and should be efficient.
4. To use the legal team: (a) make sure they understand their function and the business; (b) hire the right type of in-house lawyer; if you do all that then (c) trust them, they are there for a reason.
Bottleneck? Sometimes deals are complicated and sometimes your legal team is broken.
StraightUp Strategy LLC