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“Nobody goes to school or university thinking they will work in legal operations. As an undergrad student, I wanted to become an attorney, but my mentor suggested I try something different. Glad I took his advice!”

In the first decade of her professional journey, Nadia worked with law firms in various capacities - as a paralegal, legal project assistant, and secretarial supervisor. These roles helped her understand the importance of data and analytics in legal. 

“The label of legal ops is relatively new, but I have been doing the job for almost a decade before landing my first official legal operations role.”

In 2018, Nadia transitioned to a full-time legal operations role when she joined Carbon - a 3D printing company based in Redwood City, California. Then she moved on to join GitHub and currently works as the legal operations manager of Next Insurance, Inc. - an online insurance provider for small businesses based located in Palo Alto, California, where she is building the legal ops function from the ground up. 

We had a candid conversation with Nadia about her professional journey. She shed light on how she uses CLM tools to streamline contract management at Next Insurance and how legal ops managers can look at spending their first 30-60-90 days in a company. 

The first 90 days as a legal ops manager at a new company

Simply put, there are two essentials to being an effective legal operations manager -

  • Identifying problems 
  • Leveraging technology to find viable solutions.

Nadia advises that any legal operations manager should come up with a 30-60-90 day plan to identify the significant gaps in the company and how legal can help bridge those. 

“In the first 30 days, don't try to solve any problems - make connections and just attend meetings to get a basic understanding of who the key decision makers and stakeholders are. Take the next 30 days to learn about the business as much as possible, meet people in the company, and learn about their pain points. On the 60th day, start putting together a tech plan or a wish list - what are the tools and technologies that address the key predicaments?”

But that’s not all! 

Communication is essential for legal operations managers. After all, they are the ones who deal with data. In lieu of that, legal operations managers should be able to communicate freely with various teams. Nadia suggests all legal operations managers have healthy and periodic conversations with three teams: 

  • IT/Security
  • Engineering
  • Sales
“The job requirement of legal operations managers varies from organisation to organisation. However, keeping close ties with IT, Engineering, and Sales teams can help you stay prepared for any conflicts in the future and keep data handy as and when required.” 

Two essential areas where legal operations managers play a significant role are implementing CLM tools and templatising sales-led contracts. 

Implementing a CLM tool

From her experience, Nadia knows that most legal operations managers must manage or implement the CLM tool. She suggests that any legal operations manager who is looking forward to implementing a CLM tool should take some time to get used to the interface. 

“Start with agreements that are easy to compile, such as NDAs. Gather as many attorneys as possible to test the tool and take some time till every attorney in the system gets used to the interface of the CLM. Then, start building out more complicated agreements, such as third-party contracts. Finally, move on to using the tool for templatising sales contracts.”

Templatising Sales-led Contracts

Sales-led contracts are closely tied to the revenue stream of the company. Hence, it is imperative to ensure templates are flexible and, at the same time, foolproof. Legal operations managers should assess risks and develop strictly monitored workflows wherein growth teams can quickly draft contracts and seek approvals.   

“First, build out a workflow considering all the risks involved. Conduct training sessions with stakeholders and ensure they are comfortable using the CLM tool. The next step is to create a speck document with clause variations in different scenarios. Train the growth teams to refer to the speck document and make necessary changes to the contract, as needed."

Streamlining contracts and garnering key insights from contract data

Legal operations managers are expected to be adept with legal data of the company. The first stride in this direction is the operationalisation of the contract pipeline. With access to contract data, legal operations managers can garner critical insights, including how their contracts are performing, turnaround time, and other issues that are leading to negotiations. Although contract data is a subset of the company’s entire legal data, it holds great value when it comes to the performance metrics of the legal team. And this is why CLMs are essential. 

“At Next Insurance, we wanted to avert risks before they turned critical. I figured the only viable solution was to use a CLM tool. Once your contracts are centralised, it becomes convenient to manage procurement processes, professional services, and NDAs.”

Although Next Insurance was using a CLM tool before Nadia joined, they needed to leverage it to its full potential. There was a lot of delay in getting contract approvals. 

“Every stakeholder sought quick contract approvals, but they were unfamiliar with the review and risk assessment process associated with contract approvals.”

Eventually, Nadia set up approval workflows and structured the contract pipeline. By doing this, she reduced the noise in the legal inbox. 

“Now everybody knows no contract can be signed or executed without going through our CLM tool, and every stakeholder has clarity on where the contract is in the pipeline.”

Over the months, Nadia has been working on building a definite corporate signatory matrix in confluence with the flow of the CLM tool. 

“Presently, there is a stratification based on the contract value. We have set monetary thresholds. When the contract value exceeds that number, the contract goes through a strict review and approval process, and certain authorised signatories can only approve that contract.”

In the upcoming months, Nadia hopes to set up the required workflows within the CLM tool and streamline contract management. She also hopes to finalise the corporate signatory matrix, look at various software that provide automation, streamline processes, and allow for a faster business flow. Finally, she hopes to implement a legal e-billing tool to help manage legal spending and budget.

Wrapping Up

Irrespective of the organisation's size, legal ops can bring in a lot of value by integrating technological expertise, knowledge management, and process optimisation. The ideal legal operations manager takes a strategic business approach to maximise available resources and assists in-house counsel in vendor management, technology management, finance, and legal data analytics. 

If you are the Head of Legal of your company and want to understand when you should hire a legal operations manager, read this article.

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