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Legal interim management, a model suitable for companies of all sizes

The benefits of using interim management

First and foremost, large corporations now turn to interim legal management for all kinds of assignments. These may involve a specialist or a generalist. They may involve large-scale, long-term projects (upgrading in specific areas: compliance, personal data, etc.). They may also involve short-term reinforcement needs.

Over the last few decades, large companies have been playing the card of extreme specialization of their lawyers, who have become non-interchangeable. The downside of this is that they need their legal teams to be fully staffed at all times, and cannot tolerate prolonged absences from key positions. As a result, the rapid replacement of a senior legal expert becomes a crucial issue. Somewhat behind other departments (IT, HR, etc.), legal departments are discovering that interim management is the right solution.

But mid-sized companies may also need lawyers in interim management mode. This may be for the same classic needs (today, in particular, the need for reinforcement in contracts and litigation...). It may also be to cover broader areas of their business (e.g. senior managers for all corporate law, contracts, litigation, etc.), since these companies are likely to have a greater number of multi-skilled or generalist lawyers.

SMIs also sometimes need a lawyer to cover vacancies in lateral functions (e.g. contracts manager for a specific geographical area, trademark lawyer, etc.). They can also resort to interim management in times of crisis or difficulty. The current economic crisis is obviously prompting them to call on interim management lawyers to deal with issues such as labor law, employment protection plans, insolvency proceedings, restructuring and credit renegotiation.

SMEs can also turn to interim legal management to cover their needs. Often, in this case, the interim manager will take on the role of sole legal counsel or right-hand man to the existing lawyer. The areas to be covered will then be extremely varied: contracts, corporate, litigation, partnerships, etc.

For all companies, the crisis has had three effects that we see on a daily basis:

  • Increasing the demand for specialists (restructuring, PSE (Employment Safeguard Program), etc.);
  • Increasing budgetary constraints;
  • And thus push companies to consider more willingly the use of younger managers, in order to reconcile these opposites.

Young legal experts are therefore in great demand.

Start-ups may also need flexible lawyers for their development.

Indeed, they cannot manage all legal matters internally, for several reasons.

On the one hand, because of the variety and complexity of issues they face very quickly, from the start.

On the other hand, because for all that, they need a high level of legal certainty; the legal problems they will encounter are, presumably, specific to their field of activity, are sometimes new, and are often decisive for the business model itself.

So it's not common for start-ups to hire a very young generalist lawyer to handle all the issues. They often prefer to use a number of external law firms on a case-by-case basis. As the company grows, the dilemma systematically arises of whether to increase security, with very costly recruitment, or to continue to use multiple external lawyers, also very costly. Start-ups readily admit that neither solution is satisfactory. In such cases, the transitional and flexible solution of interim management is ideal. It enables them to move upmarket quickly, without creating permanent additional burdens.

Market trends

Interim management for legal functions is a speciality of a broader profession, known as "generalist" interim management (for all corporate functions - CFO, HR Director, CIO, BU Director, etc.).

While the development of legal interim management, which began later in France than so-called "generalist" interim management, is following a parallel path, there are important nuances.

Whether for large companies, SMEs or start-ups, legal interim management is gradually establishing itself as a solution adapted to each situation, and is penetrating this market.

However, for example, contrary to the experience of "generalist" legal interim management players who do a lot of business with a clientele of ETIs, interim management for legal functions is growing in equal measure with large groups and ETIs.
This is the observation made by IMfinity since its creation in 2017.

The use of this mode of service is more recent in SMEs.

Another point of difference is that, while "generalist" interim management is also being developed in the regions, legal interim management has so far been used more to meet the needs of large corporate legal departments in Paris and the Île-de-France region. However, it is equally well suited to the legal departments of provincial head offices.

Whatever the size of the company, interim management is not the only possible solution. Companies can also call on the services of legal experts on a time-sharing or remote basis, outsourced or telecommuting... At IMfinity, we see that all these solutions are increasingly in demand by our customers.

The economic and health crisis has moreover underlined the importance of rethinking the organisation of a legal department.
And the new solutions are applicable
in large groups as well as in SMEs.

The permanent in-house lawyer is no longer the only model . Outsourcing of the legal function is set to increase rapidly. Firstly, thanks to remote collaborative working techniques. But also because the crisis has made managers realize that this remote working solution does indeed work.

There are therefore many possible solutions. For example, the legal department will be able to have remote access to lawyers in all areas of law, in France or abroad, for the periods of its choice.

The boundaries between recruitment and assignments, long thought to be structural and watertight, have become much more porous. Today, many customer mandates include a request for an assignment for an initial period, followed by a request for a permanent contract. To meet these complex needs, it is essential to have experience in both professions(interim management and recruitment), and to be fully conversant with these two overlapping, but not identical, approaches.

Once again, intimate knowledge of the legal profession is essential to understand this new type of need, to be able to attract talent, and to appreciate their ability to first carry out an assignment and then accept a permanent contract.

More and more available lawyers are saying they're open to discussing the possibility of an in-house assignment, a fixed-term contract or a permanent contract. Opportunism perhaps, but above all pragmatism, as the market has evolved and borders have collapsed.

From this point of view, the adaptation of available lawyers is remarkable. Whereas just a few years ago, many of them could refuse an interim assignment when they were looking for a permanent contract, today more of them are applying, indicating that they are looking for either an assignment or a permanent contract. Even so, they are concerned about the coherence of their career and are demanding about the nature of the assignment. The legal interim management market is therefore attracting experienced lawyers who are available for strategic assignments. They are attracted by the project and the level of responsibility entrusted to them. At the same time, they are more flexible than before in terms of their remuneration, since they plan to carry out one or two interim management assignments before later taking up a permanent contract, and they know that it is only then that the negotiation of their package will be binding for the long term. It's an opportunity for the interim management market, an opportunity for large companies, ETIs, investment funds, etc. ... to be able to find very high-level interim managers today for complex assignments. On the other hand, these top legal executives are not interested in low-stakes assignments, even if they are well-paid. For example, they are not interested in the CCD assignments for profiles with 10 years' experience (!) that are flourishing with the crisis.

At the other end of the spectrum, we are also seeing the arrival on the interim management market of young lawyers, whether experts or generalists, who are very mature, with a first successful experience in a company or law firm, and who are determined to continue their professional life in a company, while being guided and coached by the partner of a company specialized in legal interim management, with the guarantee of rapidly gaining in competence and credibility thanks to the accelerated training represented by in-house assignments.

Written under the supervision of Francis Fernandez-Mouron.