How to ask CEO Santa for New Headcount

CultureFit-image1024x768Happy holidays! What would you like to see in your law department’s stocking this year? Have you asked CEO Santa for an increased budget in 2017? If so, my guess is that Santa wanted a whole lot of information to back-up the request.

Last month, I moderated a panel at In-house Innovates (formerly known as “Superconference”) titled “Allocating Law Department Resources.” One of my takeaways from our session, and the conference generally, is that in-house counsel are getting with the program when it comes to using data and performance metrics. Numbers speak much louder than words when making the case for additional resources.

But even if the metrics make sense, for example in projected savings versus outside counsel use, Santa may still get grumpy if you ask for additional headcount. That is a present wrapped in commitment, and batteries are definitely not included. And so metrics are just a starting point.

For an increase in headcount, you need to articulate the added value an additional lawyer brings to the company. Will the hire align with a growing business unit that is being underserved? Are you creating a Center of Excellence that would benefit from expertise not currently in-house? If new headcount comes in at a somewhat junior level, will this allow a current High Potential member of the department to grow and take on higher value responsibilities?

Whether you are going from one lawyer to two, from nine to 10, or from 70 to seventy one, you know you will need to make a strong business case for it.

Call me any time if you would like a sounding board on this. I have helped general counsel put together one-page bullet point memos on this topic, although usually those turn into an email and, as they should, a face-to-face conversation. But it’s useful to have a well-defined plan for how you will maximize a new resource. Saying your current staff is overworked may be true, but in and of itself that argument often fails.

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