Matrix management in the Legal function
This has consequences for a whole range of functions within business – this blog post is about the impact on the legal function.
The legal function is clearly the right place to build the capability of your future lawyers. ‘Legal’ tends to be a relatively small function with technically skilled and professionally qualified people providing a specific service to their businesses. Legal people generally see their careers within the legal function.
Strong functional skills and professional development tends to lead to a strong functional organization structure.
In each country, the process of gaining a professional legal qualification tends to be fairly arduous. General international knowledge or skills may be of limited use in the traditional means of professional development. However, in a matrix management structure the ability to give advice that crosses geographical boundaries, in particular, becomes increasingly important – and the legal function is adapting to this reality.
As organizations become more global, the ability to bring together specialists with different country legal knowledge to produce a coherent regional/global legal recommendation will be at a premium. This may produce tensions between the local expertise and the increasingly global nature of work in parts of the legal function.
Legal people also need to be adept at joining virtual and matrix teams on a short and long-term basis, and at cooperating with colleagues in different locations, cultures and functions. Even if they are not formally matrixed themselves, legal personnel have to be successful within the overall organizational matrix.
At Global Integration, we are also increasingly seeing the emergence of ‘legal business partners’, where legal personnel are allocated to businesses as a primary point of contact and then need to reach out and engage legal colleagues from other parts of the organization or other areas of functional speciality to get things done.
This creates an internal matrix within the legal function.
In most organizations, the legal function enjoys a certain level of independence to ensure impartiality of advice. This may lead organizations towards ‘solid functional line’ combined with ‘dotted business line’ reporting within the legal function.
In summary, whilst the legal function may have a strong functional organization structure, in reality it’s personnel may be amongst the most ‘matrixed’ within an organization.
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