In 2014, Charles McCarragher and his legal team at TD Bank Group faced a problem familiar to in-house counsel: too much work and not enough people to do it.
More staff, in his view, was not the answer. “Adding lanes to the highway is not the way you solve rush-hour traffic,” says Mr. McCarragher, Assistant Vice-President Legal (Technology), especially without a quantitative explanation for “we’re busy.” Instead, he turned to data analytics—the business of mining internal and external company information to drive decisions—a strategy gaining ground with in-house counsel as they look to manage growing demand for legal services and add value to an organization’s bottom line.
“There is a high level of acknowledgement that data analytics is central to the discharge of a general counsel’s mandate,” says Deloitte Partner David Stewart, co-author of the consulting company’s annual General Counsel Report. “The question is, ‘Are they happy with where they are today and do they feel they are optimizing the data and tools to their full advantage?’ A lot of people would say there is a lot of room for improvement.”
When Amgen Canada assigned its top management committee last year to oversee a three-year strategic plan to guide the drug maker’s future, Senior Counsel Ryan Lennox was among those named to the team.
He was tapped for his legal expertise, of course, but for something else too: his grasp of business issues. With some of Amgen’s long-lived patents expiring for the first time in its 25-year history—and its new patent-protected medicines coming on stream in the next few years—the company turned to top officials for a roadmap, as Lennox puts it, “to get us from now to the future.”
His involvement in shaping Amgen’s future typifies the growing demand for in-house counsel to be financially literate so they can read a balance sheet, ask pertinent questions of the chief financial officer and, when necessary, raise red flags. Often, lawyers are not trained in the language of numbers, so learning to interpret them for bottom-line impact is fast becoming a necessity.
“There is an increasing expectation that lawyers are going to have these [business] skills,” says Lennox, who joined Amgen four years ago, eager to contribute more than his legal acumen. “I have always had a bit of this business inclination,” he says. “How can I get in there and be closer to the business and add value?”