Which Internal Teams Work Best with Legal?

Trusted relationships are everything.

According to Lord Richard Layard, today’s foremost happiness researcher and program director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, what matters most in business is what matters most in life: cultivating a sense of belonging and purpose bolstered by meaningful connection.

Any team, be it Sherlock and Watson or the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, possesses a shared objective, goal, or destination. Every player must be invested in doing the work needed to arrive at that pinnacle. And each individual must feel a connection with their colleagues or teammates to want to achieve that success together.

It’s no different for business teams. If you’ve ever wondered how you can enhance your relationship with internal clients, you aren’t alone. It turns out the status of the relationship with Legal can differ by department.

The Enterprise Legal Relationship (ELR) Report – a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany – found that the majority (77%) of enterprise employees believe that Legal is exceptional at negotiating on the behalf of their companies. However, less than one in five (19%) feels Legal prioritizes its internal clients, and the status of those relationships can vary across the enterprise.

So what accounts for this disconnect among departments? And what can be done to change it?

Satisfied with safeguarding

The ELR Report revealed that enterprise employees believe Legal’s charter is to protect the company, assets, and people. Additionally, 46% of all global employees consider Legal a trusted advisor. It makes sense, then, that the more liability-prone departments have a higher rate of positive engagement with Legal: Around the globe, 62% of employees from Human Resources (HR) and Finance note positive relations with Legal.

Even more impressively, seven in 10 U.S. respondents are pleased with Legal’s interactions with HR. Employees in France cite collegiality with both HR and Finance at 66%. In the United Kingdom, 64% tout a good working relationship with HR; 62% say the same of Finance, whereas in Germany – which reports the lowest rate of satisfaction with Legal — half (50%) are content with HR and 58% with Finance.

Feeling the strain

For Sales, IT, Marketing and Procurement, however, those numbers plummet – only 43% of global respondents say Legal’s interactions with Sales are positive, and that figure drops to 38% for IT and 37% for both Marketing and Procurement.

U.K. employees cite satisfaction with Sales, Marketing, and IT at just 35%. And in France – where, by and large, legal teams are viewed as uncompromising – only 29% consider Legal to share a decent connection with Procurement; 33% with IT.

Similarly, 40% of U.S. enterprise employees call Legal’s relationships with Sales and IT positive. Marketing comes in lower at 38%. Data are not much improved for these departments in Germany, where less the half have good interactions with Sales (49%) and IT (43%), and even fewer do with Marketing (37%) and Procurement (38%).

Looking in the mirror

Legal manages various types of matters including contracts, negotiations, lawsuits, and issues of compliance. Since HR and Finance are required to follow protocol – they are not supposed to deviate from “the book,” and the rules that Legal sets and abides by to safeguard the company – it’s only natural that they find dealing with Legal easier.

Meanwhile, Sales, Marketing, IT, and Procurement – departments that are, by their nature, meant to push the envelope to innovate, hit numbers, and modernize – report frustration working with Legal. As it is their responsibility to assertively grow and advance the enterprise in avant-garde and creative ways, they may feel stymied and stonewalled by the very parameters put into place to protect the business.

A call for change

Still, it doesn’t have to be this way. People are a company’s most valuable asset. And with the core of any business a collection of both internal and external relationships, the more connected the enterprise, the more successful it will be. For the sake of business growth and efficiency, Legal can seize this moment to become a more active partner, to nurture more collaborative alliances, to enhance relationships across the business – and to ultimately connect to the enterprise as a whole, now more than ever.

Take the next step in elevating your internal working relationships. Your business is counting on you.

Learn more by reading ELR Report Chapter 1.

The ELR Report is a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany intended to showcase relationship dynamics and perceived image between corporate legal teams and enterprise organizations.