My advice is to start by doing the necessary background work. Gather data on your existing resources, their activities and levels of utilisation. Benchmark these against similar legal functions and analyse your organisation’s business needs. At this stage, consider all your options for meeting these needs.

If and when you conclude that you need to hire an additional resource, your next challenge is to convince the relevant stakeholders within the organisation to approve the hire and release the necessary funds.

There’s no “one size fits all” approach. Much will depend on how your organisation takes decisions of this type. Your own position and standing in the business will also be a factor. Consider these in the context of how many people’s approval you’ll need, what the formal and informal processes are and any similar historical cases you can find information about. 

While your case will be unique, there are, in my experience, some matters that are common across all organisations.

First and foremost, you must be absolutely convinced that hiring a new person for your department will benefit the organisation as a whole. If you have doubts in that respect, remove them before putting your case before the relevant stakeholders. When you do seek their approval, you’ll need to speak with absolute conviction.

Secondly, timing is critical. There’s little point in making a hiring request if your organisation has a temporary global hiring freeze. Hiring freezes come and go, but if your request is rejected because of one, it’ll forever bear the “once rejected” marker. This can make it difficult to get your case reconsidered later. You’re probably better off waiting until the freeze is over than seeking an exception. Exceptions usually require approval at the highest level within organisations and for this, you’d need to demonstrate an immediate financial benefit – a big challenge for a legal department. Of course, there might be other immediate pressing needs, such as regulatory compliance matters, a special project or a large-scale litigation, where your chances of getting an exception may be higher.

Thirdly, I’ve found that socialising a request with relevant stakeholders informally in advance of a formal submission can really help. This way, you build their understanding and support before making your full business case. Having influential people on your side will help, even if you can’t get outright organisation-wide approval.

Every organisation has its own hiring process, complete with formal paperwork and processes. You may, for example, have to open a requisition in the HR system, then submit it electronically to the relevant approver. Whatever your organisation’s process is, be sure to familiarise yourself with it. This will help you present all the information the approvers need and avoid having your case rejected or delayed due to missing formalities. Speaking with your internal recruitment and human resource functions should help in this respect.

Finally, when making the case for extra resource, use the language your approvers use. Explain:

  • What the business needs are;
  • What options you’ve considered; and 
  • What options you’ve considered; and 
  • Why hiring an additional in-house lawyer is the best of these options. 

Include in your submission all relevant financial data and set it out in the format business decision makers expect. This may mean presenting your proposal in terms of:

  • Cost/benefit analyses;
  • Initial and on-going costs;
  • Payback period;
  • Return on investment
  • Net present value;
  • Discount rate; and
  • Internal rate of return.

If you need help understanding these concepts and/or making the necessary calculations, seek advice from your organisation’s financial function. Don’t let your request be rejected on the basis wrong numbers. 

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