As businesses grow, the demand for legal services also increases, putting pressure on in-house legal departments to deliver cost-efficient legal services to the company. As highlighted in the Deloitte Study “Canadian legal landscape 2017”, it appears that driving efficiency has become a key focus for GCs. When new entities are added to the organization, the need to hire additional legal professionals to handle growth rises, along with the challenges that come with it: improving efficiency, productivity, processes and how to become a valuable contributor to the strategic and financial goals of the organization.
The deployment of new technology is an essential component in improving efficiency and achieving greater productivity, while demonstrating the added value of the legal department to the CEO and board of Directors. The implementation of the right tools and processes can result in changing the GC and its in-house team from being general advisors to strategic partners and business enablers.
Here are some insights on how to optimize your legal department’s growth while being more proactive and strategic in how GCs can advise the business.
Empowering in-house teams through technology
Legal professionals are currently facing a period of tremendous transformation where in-house counsel are being asked to do more with less. For many General Counsel, most challenges, such as budget restraints, regulatory issues and staffing, are coming from the growth of the business, sometimes on a global scale. To successfully achieve this transformation, corporate legal departments can look into legal technologies and software products made to assist with automation of processes as well as document, time and budget management.
Unlike the first software products developed at the beginning of the decade, today’s technology is very flexible and can be easily integrated into existing legal departments environments for a more seamless assimilation. With access to many advanced features, in-house lawyers can manage their day-to-day needs from contract lifecycle management, to automating the entire management of the business’ subsidiaries, as well as management of intellectual property.
Thanks to new technology, it is possible today for legal departments to go almost completely paperless, making it easier for lawyers to share and store documents, contracts, or emails. Some software specialized in contract management can also easily help inside counsel track versions of their contracts (including all related amendments, communications and workflows), monitor contract performance with automated triggers on commitments, deadlines, and milestones, or highlight key clauses, latent risks and possible non-compliance. This enables faster legal research, verification, collaboration, and prevents duplication of efforts to ultimately optimize legal advice along with decision making.
As efficiency is crucial for growing legal departments, such tools can allow them to refine their legal operations and maximize their team productivity.
The new role of the GC
With the company’s growth comes the opportunity to show the value the legal department can bring as a strategic partner. Increasingly, GCs are becoming an influential component of management teams. As their influence rises, they are taking on a more significant role in providing business and strategy guidance at the executive level.
This is particularly true when organizations consider expanding their reach into foreign countries: legal can be key to helping leadership understand and assess the legal landscape, potential outcomes and business risks of such decisions. This impacts the role of the GC who can then expand into broader areas of risk, compliance, and strategy. As the organization becomes more global and complex, the nature of challenges faced by corporate counsel and the scope of their responsibilities shift, mainly to align and grow the legal budget within the company’s financial expectations while meeting the needs of the business.
The only way to face these challenges is to get a holistic view of legal activities across all entities on a global scale and in near real time. Through this, the General Counsel can drive its team and the business in a very positive way, and be key in achieving optimal results enterprise-wide. Modern legal software products can provide them with this holistic view and support them in their new role, specifically through efficient data gathering and analysis. GCs can then get valuable insights into legal performance and base their strategy not on subjective information but on informed insights supported by data.
Performance metrics and technology: how can the GC with a holistic view demonstrate the value of the legal department
We’re familiar with the stereotype and perception that the legal department is a “cost center”, although it can add value to organizations in many different ways. This perception is however slowly changing and GCs are progressively seen as contributors to the organization’s success.
As General Counsel are embracing a much more active role in their organizations’ strategy, the proper use of technology can help them understand, calculate, and demonstrate their contribution and value to senior management, along with reducing costs through KPIs and performance metrics. Software companies have developed powerful tools to help GCs get an oversight view of their team activity and gather data group-wide in real time.
These software providers have developed customized dashboards to help General Counsel get a summarized oversight of their department’s activity. This includes, among other functionalities, synchronized calendars with Outlook and Gmail, overview of urgent requests, number of matters closed, and budget spent. It also allows to measure workload, response times to request, deadline compliance, department output, and performance vs objectives. Sharing these meaningful metrics and KPIs is a great way for General Counsel to overcome this “cost center” stereotype, as financial metrics include among other things revenue, output, productivity or control of litigation costs, and loss prevention.
By investing in the right tools and ensuring to get a detailed knowledge and activity overview of the legal activities, the General Counsel can very effectively manage a deeply complex and diverse business on a global scale. He or she will then have the information and knowledge needed to demonstrate the worth of its department and make appropriate decisions for his staff and for the company.