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legal team best practices
11 min read

Selling the Dream: A Guide for CLOs and GCs to Optimize the Legal Function

Legal technology has gained a secure foothold in the legal industry and has now reached a critical tipping point. Lawyers can no longer be distracted by the bells and whistles, and instead must be focused on identifying and implementing meaningful tools that enable in-house legal leaders to be true catalysts for change across the business. Selling the Dream is a monthly series that separates what is hype from what is real and provides tips for using technology to elevate the status of the in-house legal function.

Corporate legal functions are rapidly changing. By and large, general counsels (GCs) and chief legal officers (CLOs) understand the evolving nature of the role. Today’s CEOs are expecting more from legal leaders. Gone are the days where being a good lawyer was good enough; the best in-house attorneys can succinctly and effectively provide actionable perspectives from both the business and the legal perspectives.

A key aspect of becoming that trusted business advisor and truly strong legal leader is learning to embrace risk and own the business decisions around opportunities, standing side-by-side with non-legal counterparts in both success and failure. For many legal leaders, accepting risk for the sake of the business opportunity can be challenging at times, but choosing to be a businessperson first separates superb in-house lawyers from adequate ones. Really taking ownership of these decisions (yes, even the “business” decisions) is an essential first step in creating a team of legal professionals who truly understand what it means to be “commercial.”

Legal leaders also must be just as technologically savvy as the non-legal ones in the organization. As technology continues to get better for all business units, the legal team must be eager to adopt new technologies and adapt the way the legal function operates to serve the business and provide more efficient, effective and quantifiable advice and value to the rest of the business stakeholders.

Every other business unit makes decisions and provides results based on meaningful metrics rooted in quantifiable data—why should the legal team be any different?

Visualizing Success

When envisioning what makes a top-notch legal department, looking at the ways other parts of the business operate can be helpful guidance. The aim of the successful legal team is to provide the highest level of service to the rest of the organization, at all levels, and do so consistently, transparently, and in a way that drives value that can be quantified and communicated effectively. Successful legal leaders know what questions need to be answered before those questions are asked, and are consistently effective in articulating problems and communicating solutions in easily understandable, directly actionable ways.

Becoming a successful leader first requires them to understand the business operations and objectives, and anticipate the needs of the business. From there, success is rooted in hiring the right people, leading and developing those people effectively and providing those people with the tools (technologically and otherwise) to deliver the best results in the most efficient and consistent way possible.

Dreaming of Data

Historically, legal professionals have relied largely on on-the-job training and prior experience to develop sound strategies and tactics to protect and optimize the business. While that has been effective in the past to a certain extent, the reality of today’s business environment is that the legal team must incorporate data in the decision-making process.

Identifying and tracking data that can be used to guide and support the operations of the legal team in a sustainable way invariably requires the legal team to embrace technology and incorporate that technology into standard, repeatable processes. Having this alignment between the operating practices of the legal team and the incorporation of technology is essential in having reliable data upon which decisions can be based and results evaluated.

Leveraging data that can quantify and justify what were historically “gut instinct” decisions complements training and provides the benefit of the team’s collective experience to achieve results in shorter times, with more successful and predictable outcomes. Being able to quickly utilize that data to not only make decisions, but to communicate to the broader business the successes that those decisions have brought to the organization is what really separates the good teams from the great ones.

The legal team’s ability to incorporate technology effectively and consistently provides increased visibility to the stakeholders requesting the work, clear understanding of what work needs to be done by the team and quantifiable information about the amount and quality of work delivered by the team to management. The best legal leaders know the work the team is delivering and know how to communicate the impact of that high-quality product to the organization at large.

Finding a Solution

Choosing which technology to deploy for a legal department is dependent upon the needs of that department, plain and simple. To make the right decision, legal leaders need to understand what the business needs are and what pain points the team is experiencing in providing services to the business.

Whether the main focus is on a particular topic, like data security or IP protection, or is more operational. like providing faster turnaround times or increasing visibility and managing expectations of the business, the legal team leader should have a very comprehensive understanding of the core problem the team needs to address.

For many GCs and CLOs purchasing technology for the first time or simply exploring what technology is available in the market, the following questions may help to identify whether the technology will suit the core problem sought to be addressed:

  • Define the Objective
    • Is the problem a process problem, an organizational problem or both?
    • Is the right solution one that provides increased efficiency, organization and/or transparency? Which is most important?
    • What is the time to value?
    • Will the technology actually solve the problem, or just cause the problem to present in a different way?
  • Do Your Research
    • Understand what products are in the market
    • Talk to other General Counsels, Chief Legal Officers and Legal Operations professionals about selecting and integrating technology
    • Listen to provider sales calls
    • Do reference/customer checks before deciding on a solution
  • Create the Roadmap
    • Identify the right technology for the team
    • What are the critical features needed?
    • How much will adopting the technology change your existing processes, if at all?
    • Who will be the legal tech “champions” on the legal team?

Stay Tuned

This is the first of many articles intended to help GCs, CLOs and other aspiring in-house legal professionals drive organizational growth and enterprise value, and embrace the opportunity to become best-in-class business leaders.

This article was originally published by ALM's Legaltech News. Check it out here

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Tim Parilla is the Chief Legal Officer at LinkSquares.