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In-house legal teams are more than just lawyers, they are also evolving into strategic business partners. 

Balancing these diverse roles, from advisors to strategists, it is essential that they function efficiently. This blog explores how streamlining legal processes can elevate legal teams, enhance productivity, collaboration, cost efficiency and compliance. 

Drawing insights from 7 general counsels and heads of legal, we offer a practical way to transform your legal department into a successful force that propels your organization forward. Let’s dive in. 

#1 Leveraging Technology and Enhancing Contract Management

Using AI and new technologies to increase productivity within the legal team

There’s no doubt that technology, particularly AI stepping into the picture can transform an in-house legal team’s day-to-day work. The digital transformation can help you automate workflows, and customize the end-to-end process according to the needs of your organization/team. What’s more, a good platform that uses AI will give you a centralized smart repository  for all your contracts and they can be stored, accessed and retrieved easily. 

Technology has also made it easier to implement new operational procedures, especially for editing and reviewing contracts. One of the biggest benefits of technology is that the workload of the legal team (especially on manual tasks) is reduced and their capacity to focus on more important tasks increases. That being said, another benefit is that AI-driven technology can help with risk identification.

Jesimin Berman, the Director of Legal Ops and Compliance at Papaya Global says,

“It's really exciting to have the opportunity to build new processes from scratch on top of a technology that you hope will make your colleagues’ lives smoother. The user-friendly improvements we implemented increased internal team satisfaction, enhanced our KPIs on deal closings, and ultimately improved the experience for our clients. My mantra is “Small changes can have large impacts.” — Being able to remove a bottleneck, like having too many intermediary steps to address a customer need, benefits all teams.”

Implementing a CLM platform for more efficient contract lifecycle management:

With a CLM (Contract Lifecycle Management) platform, legal teams are able to get a higher level of control and visibility. This includes activities associated with contracting, documents, approvals, metrics and workflows. The benefits of having a centralized repository for legal documents and know-how can enable self-service for the whole organization. 

Igor Poroger, the Director of Legal (EMEA) at Vectra AI accurately discusses the dilemma legal teams have before implementing a CLM platform. He also explains the benefits in the long-run. 

“Although a CLM solution might seem costly in the early stages, companies should have it in place and build workflows within the tool to process contracts better. By doing so, they can keep legal costs low in the growth stages and close deals faster. Moreover, they will have clear visibility into the contract pipeline and use their legal resources to optimize workflows better for yielding maximum results."

CLM also helps make the contract review and approval process significantly simpler. All stakeholders can access contracts, and make the necessary comments and changes. This facilitates efficient collaboration and expedites the review process.

To further emphasize this point, Igor says,

“We are able to draft and redline contracts inside the CLM tool. Therefore, we no longer need to rely exclusively on tools such as MS Word and Google Docs. Now, all stakeholders can view and access just one true version of the contract.”

CLM can also standardize a lot of processes in the legal department. Creating templates and guidelines for legal contracts is one way Benefits of contract templates include saving time and money and reducing risk of security breaches. Since the templates are pre-approved by the legal department, the scope for human error is a lot lesser. Moreover, they can also be customized when needed. 

Some examples of types of contracts are: Employment contracts, terms of use, privacy policies, non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), sales contracts, meeting minutes. Juliette Thirsk, the Head of Legal at Peach Payments briefly elucidates how her team tackles challenges when it comes to standardization.

“Another problem we face in contract management is version control - different departments may be using old templates and rolling contracts out manually. We want to implement a CLM solution to have better visibility into our contract pipeline, especially when our business is scaling in different countries.” 

Bhavna Singh, GC and DPO at Subex Limited explains how their team brought about order by using templates for their contracts,

“First, I worked on setting up contract templates and contracting guidelines that every lawyer in the team dealing with contracts must use and follow. Doing so, we were able to bring in a lot of order to the system.”

#2 Bridging the Gap: Legal and Business Teamwork

Collaboration between business teams and legal can be the factor that propels a company to success. Bridging this gap can improve an organization’s prospects as well as each legal-counsel’s personal career prospects. 

Juliette Thirsk, the Head of Legal at Peach Payments mentions this to remind us about the importance of building relationships. She says,

"Until and unless you sink your teeth deep into business operations, you won’t understand what needs to be done and when. So, I spent my first 30 days meeting stakeholders, understanding the finance business jargon, and building relationships.”

However, working with cross functional teams can also be challenging. As you know, an in-house legal team juggles numerous tasks and duties on a daily basis. The key to this is prioritizing and finding a balance.

Brenda Perez, Senior Legal Ops Manager at Apollo.io explains,

“As an in-house legal team member, if you agree to take care of tasks that come from cross-functional teams while supporting legal, you must first prioritize. You need to be more strategic about what you're doing than just doing whatever work comes to your desk. If you're doing everything, then it just jeopardizes your work and your health.”

It is, indeed, the art of striking balance. In-house legal teams need to be able to deliver services consistently, and at the same time, maximize resources and ensure that their organization is complying with regulatory requirements. At the same time, they also foster relationships with cross functional teams, that’s why Brenda Perez accurately explains “prioritize” and that would still play a part in streamlining legal processes. 

#3 Optimizing Legal Resources

Every legal department is tackling the issue of “doing more with less”. So, it is all about maximizing existing resources to generate the most business value. One way to achieve this is to hire the right talent for the team. Streamlining processes can only work if the team is efficient and operating to its full potential.

Sandeep Chowdhary, Group GC at HCC Ltd., elaborates how their legal department focuses on hiring the right talent. He says, 

“You don’t want to hire people first and then assign them a role. A more suitable approach is to go to the drawing board, pin down your requirements vis-a-vis the business, and then hire for those roles that will make maximum sense.” 

Technology can also be aided to better allocate resources and spending. This can ensure that hiring is within the budget and that efficiency is a priority. Megan Niedermeyer, the Chief Legal Officer at Apollo.io truly practices what she preaches. She explains how their department makes these tough decisions. 

According to Megan Niedermeyer,

“At the end of the day, we want to see the right outcome for the business. There are a couple of ways to get there, and we should decide based on our business, our talent, our current resourcing, our current experience, which way we want to skin the cat. Assess these aspects carefully to figure out who's going to take the lead on a certain area of responsibility and who's going to follow. But those should be outcome-based decisions rather than ownership-based decisions."

Legal can also ensure that they create a complete audit trail and record all legal demands and requests. According to this documentation, they can pull out relevant metrics and better plan resources. 

#4 Setting and monitoring KPIs (key performance indicators)

If there is a gap in the workflows that are presently in place, KPIs can help the legal team identify them. It can also help the team identify where the problem areas and/or bottlenecks are. This helps the legal team take corrective action and prevent these bottlenecks from affecting work. KPIs need to be not only aligning with business needs as a whole, but also the specific needs of the legal department. Ensure that these needs are realistic and also have set deadlines. They should also be measurable.

Some of the KPIs that can be tracked are the volume and quality of contracts, legal spending, time taken to process cases from start to finish, compliance with regulatory requirements and more. Some of the latest KPIs are technology know-how and risk management as well. While these may not be as easy to quantify, they can still be assessed and improved over time. 

Jesimin Berman, the Director of of Legal Ops and Compliance at Papaya Global says,

“KPI’s need to be adaptive. They give insights to our board, who are not sitting with us day in and day out, as well as the management team that oversees the business regularly. I’m always looking to finetune the parameters, especially since legal and legal ops wins can be difficult to quantify and separate from another department. For example, I look for legal conferences and other legal-only access points to funnel deals to Papaya and add to our specific KPIs.”

As we have explored, implementing strategies such as enhancing contract management, fostering cross-functional collaboration, leveraging technology, optimizing resources, and setting clear KPIs, legal teams can transcend traditional roles. These strategies do not only streamline legal operations but also drive organizational efficiency and innovation. By embracing these approaches, legal teams can significantly contribute to the overarching success of their organizations, proving that their role is pivotal in navigating the complexities of today's business landscape.

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