Technology, Change Management & Flexible Resourcing: Tips for Legal Departments - Priori

Technology, Change Management & Flexible Resourcing: Tips for Legal Departments



Learn how the panelists at GCC Midwest drive change and create value for their companies

Innovation, technology, change management and economic uncertainty were just some of the topics the general counsel, legal operations professionals and other members of legal departments discussed at ALM’s General Counsel Conference (GCC) Midwest in Chicago in April. Even though the panelists covered a wide range of topics, the conversations reflected recurring themes that anyone on a legal team can relate to: the importance of aligning legal strategy with business operations, effectively and efficiently managing internal and external resources and leveraging data to make better decisions. Here are a few highlights from the panels the Priori team had the opportunity to sit in on. 

Making the Legal Department a Value Center

With a potential recession looming and market unpredictability being the new norm, businesses are understandably looking to cut costs anywhere they can. The panelists in the “Uncertainty in the Business Forecast: Preparing & Prioritizing for Economic Headwinds” session experienced this firsthand and talked about how important it is, now more than ever, to shift legal from being a cost center to being a value center. 

Successfully driving value for the business is about much more than just a change of perception. The group shared advice from their experiences transforming change within their legal departments. Some of the highlights included: 

  • Make strategic changes. Don’t “boil the ocean” out of the gate. Give your legal team members the freedom to be agile in their roles as much as possible. The less siloed legal is and the more involved in-house counsel and legal operations are in business functions, the more you’ll learn where your team can make the biggest difference. 

  • Embed legal in business functions. Building on the previous tip, you should ensure members of your legal team sit in on business meetings, even if it’s just to investigate. Bringing legal in as early as possible in project discussions is one of the best tactics for successful collaboration. Being a regular part of non-legal business meetings also helps your colleagues in other departments understand that you’re there to help solve their problems. 

  • Carefully consider processes. Analyze what the business is doing and add process steps where they will make the most impact. It can be helpful to think of your role as an “engineer” of legal services. And use data to show results—if a new process is saving time and allowing your business partners to spend more time on higher level tasks, make sure they see that! 

  • Plan for uncertainty. It’s impossible to know what exactly the next crisis will be, but you know that when a crisis happens the business will look to legal for guidance. Think about what events like a recession or new regulation will mean for your business and have a plan in place for when they do. Approaching a crisis calmly with a plan will increase your business partners’ confidence and drive better results for the company. 

Championing Change Management

The theme of improving collaboration and aligning goals with business partners continued in the session, “Driving Change Management: Lessons GCs Can Learn from Legal Ops.” It’s hard to understate the impact change management has on increasing the value legal can provide to the business. The modern legal department needs to be able to move swiftly to keep up with business needs and an unpredictable economic environment. Without proper change management, often led by legal ops, transformation is difficult.

When thinking about where to start, the panelists provided some simple advice: Look at pain points. What processes or steps are people complaining about and why? Common complaints are a great way to spark a conversation about change management. Anonymous surveys are also an effective way to learn about pain points that may not be obvious or that people don’t want to share publicly. 

Once you’ve identified a project, making a change requires consistent collaboration between legal teams and the business as well as within the legal department itself. The panel discussed a few effective strategies.

1. Find Champions

Give team members (inside and outside legal) ownership over aspects of the project. Make it feel like a grassroots effort (even if it isn’t). When people feel like they’re a participant rather than a bystander, they’re much more likely to help a project succeed. This can be particularly helpful for stakeholders who may have qualms about the project—make sure they feel heard and listened to even if the end result isn’t exactly what they would like. And don’t be shy about leveraging process experts from other areas of the company. Often some of the best change management allies will come from outside legal (e.g., logistics, procurement and finance, among others). 

2. Work from the Top Down

When you want to make a change, lead by example. If possible, implement the change in the legal department first. Not only does this provide a good example for other departments, but it can be doubly effective because legal is often seen as more resistant to change, whether that’s a fair perception or not. Other departments will think, “If legal can do it, then so can we.” One panelist explained that this exact scenario played out in their company: They led the charge on moving to digital signatures and when the rest of the company saw that legal could implement them without issues, full adoption became much easier. 

3. Make the Business Case

Ultimately, the purpose of a change is to create more value for the business, whether that is in the bottom line, increased efficiency to free up time for more important work or any other business goal. Showing your business partners how and why a change will be good for the business makes success that much more likely. If you can, do a business case analysis and provide data that shows how much money or how many hours are currently spent on a task and how much you anticipate those numbers will improve with a new process. 

4. Embrace Legal Operations

Legal operations is a growing and evolving field that is perfectly suited for driving business value through change management. Every change management project will have multiple hurdles to get over before it reaches the finish line and legal operations professionals have the experience to navigate these challenges successfully. No matter the size of your department, if your legal team doesn’t yet have a legal operations function, it’s time to start thinking about adding one.

Technology & Flexible Resourcing for Small Legal Departments

For small legal teams, understanding and aligning goals with the business is critical. When resources are at a premium, every decision matters, no matter how small. Two panels at GCC Midwest dug into a wide range of topics from the perspective of small legal teams: “How to Work Effectively & Be Innovative as a Small Legal Team” and “Strategic Outsourcing & Spending for the Small Legal Department.” 

The groups discussed their experiences working on small legal teams and how important it is to get the most out of every tool in your toolbox when your resources are limited. Two of the primary tools they discussed will be no surprise to anyone working in a legal department: technology and flexible resourcing. Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion about these two topics. 

Making the Most of Technology

  • Leverage internal technology. The first place you should look for wins with technology is in products that your company already uses. Other departments are familiar with it and finding ways to achieve legal goals will pay dividends quickly. Learn how they use it and build on that to achieve legal goals. If you can fit what you need into a current successful workflow, it will be easier to include new processes and show the value they add. 

  • Automate, automate, automate. Triage your processes and identify areas that are ripe for automation. This can even extend beyond technology automation to right sizing work by moving it to business partners outside of legal or simply eliminating approval steps for less risky work. The more you can streamline processes, the more value you can create.

  • Find your natural allies. Similar to the point above about making a business case when proposing changes, when you want to bring in a technology solution, investigate all of the pain points it addresses and discuss them with stakeholders in other departments before you make an ask. In particular, look for colleagues who are process-oriented (maybe in HR, finance or sales) who will see the value of a new tool and help you make a case for it.

Achieving Goals Through Flexible Resourcing

  • Work with attorneys who understand business. When you’re using an external resource, whether it’s through a law firm, alternative legal services provider (ALSP) or another option like a legal marketplace, look for attorneys who give you advice, not just tell you what the law is. The decision-makers in the C-suite want bullet points, not a five-page memo, and if the attorney you’re working with doesn’t understand that, you should find one that does.

  • Think tactically about your legal spend. Consider factors like the risk, complexity, value and volume of work when deciding where to send it. From there, figure out what work needs to be sent to large law firms and what work would be better done by a lower-cost provider, such as small or midsize law firms, solo practitioners or secondments. 

  • Take advantage of innovations in resourcing. Remote work changed the game for many lawyers who were looking for better work-life balance. The walls around legal resources are coming down and access to top-tier talent has never been easier. If you’re not exploring ALSPs, a legal marketplace like Priori or other flexible resourcing options, you’re missing out on a key talent pool that is only getting larger. 

Believe it or not, these highlights only scratched the surface of the knowledge shared at GCC Midwest. It’s clear from the conference that general counsel, legal operations and in-house legal teams as a whole are constantly thinking about innovation and what they can do to drive value for their companies. If you’re interested in the role Priori can play in achieving your legal team’s goals, check out our RFP builder and get a list of curated attorneys for your next project.

You may also be interested in...
Like what you’re reading?
Sign up to get updates.