Uncertainty challenges organizations at every turn. As companies encounter economic lows and disruptive technologies, the need for stability cannot be overstated.
In such turbulent times, legal teams play a crucial role in safeguarding businesses and helping them navigate uncharted territories.
Despite the undeniable importance of legal, quantifying its value remains a challenge, given that many of the responsibilities shouldered by legal teams require advanced strategic thinking and execution.
In this post, we delve into how legal professionals can demonstrate their worth and contribute to the success of their organizations.
Challenges faced by legal teams during uncertain times
In times of uncertainty, the role of legal teams becomes even more crucial as businesses grapple with complex challenges and navigate through uncharted territories.
#1 Rapidly changing regulations
Uncertain times often lead to the introduction of new regulations or changes in existing laws. Legal teams must stay vigilant and continuously monitor these regulatory shifts to ensure compliance and protect the organization from legal pitfalls.
#2 Ambiguity in legal interpretations and increased legal complexity
Uncertainty and increased legal complexity can create ambiguity in legal interpretations, leaving legal teams dealing with conflicting opinions, evolving precedents, and novel legal issues. This requires legal professionals to navigate through gray areas, analyze intricate scenarios, consider multiple variables, and provide sound legal advice while mitigating potential risks.
#4 Balancing risk management and business objectives
Uncertainty often entails risk, and legal teams must strike a delicate balance between managing risks and supporting the organization's strategic goals. You must assess the legal implications of various options, guide decision-making processes, and ensure risk mitigation without stifling business growth.
Identifying key opportunities for legal teams to demonstrate value
Despite the challenges posed by uncertainty, you have unique opportunities to demonstrate their value and contribute to the organization's success:
#1 Proactive risk assessment and mitigation
“Get in fast, flag the biggest risks, manage those risks, and move on to the next thing. But see everything so you're not missing anything material.”
~ Jonathan Franz, Head of Legal, Crunchbase
Navigating Economic Turbulence and Thriving in Chaos
Uncertain times call for proactive risk assessment and mitigation strategies. You can analyze potential risks, develop compliance programs, and implement robust frameworks to protect the organization's interests and reputation.
#2 Strategic decision support
You can provide strategic decision support by conducting thorough legal research, offering alternative courses of action, and evaluating potential legal ramifications. You can also guide the organization in making informed choices that balance risk and reward.
"Over my career, I've seen areas — whether it's new product introduction, advancement into new countries, or other operational processes — that have no direct connection to legal roles; but to get to the legal advice, you need to involve yourself in the business strategy and the decision-making process, as well as the process of implementing that strategy."
~ Doug Luftman, ex-DGC, DocuSign
The Key to Success as an In-House Legal Counsel & Leader
#4 Continuous monitoring and adaptation
You should continuously monitor the legal landscape, stay updated on regulatory changes, and adapt your strategies accordingly.
“Also, take inputs from legal heads of various jurisdictions. The more you talk to them, the better you understand changing laws and regulations.”
~ Bhavna Singh, GC & DPO, Subex Limited
Elevating Legal: Fostering Transparency and Accountability in Large Tech Enterprises
By keeping pace with evolving trends and proactively adjusting legal frameworks, you can position the organization to thrive in uncertain times.
Enhancing communication and collaboration
Legal teams must ensure that information is communicated clearly and concisely within their own team especially during difficult times. This includes sharing updates on legal developments, discussing case strategies, and conveying instructions and expectations. Clear communication helps minimize misunderstandings, aligns team members' efforts, and facilitates efficient decision-making.
Moreover, when you engage with your team more often, you enable the sharing of knowledge, experiences, and best practices. Team members can then collectively enhance their legal expertise and develop a stronger understanding of complex legal issues by exchanging insights and lessons learned.
Collaborating with other departments and stakeholders
As an in-house legal professional, you need to collaborate closely with other departments and stakeholders to ensure that legal strategies align with the organization's overall goals and objectives.
“Most people think that the role of a legal department is to negotiate contracts and reduce risk to the business. But we have a much greater charter, and educating the business on our role is critical to our success. We educate through constant communication and training. It is important to speak to your business partners using terminology they understand; trying to avoid too much “legalese” when explaining various legal concepts and how they apply to the issue at hand.”
~ Adam Glick, Head of Legal, Intercom
Building a Value-Driven In-House Legal Team
You can gain a deeper understanding of the business context, provide tailored legal advice, and contribute to the development of strategic initiatives.
Also, collaboration with other departments, such as compliance, risk management, and finance, enhances the legal team's ability to proactively manage risks.
Since uncertain times often require multidisciplinary approaches to problem-solving, collaborating with other departments and stakeholders brings diverse perspectives and expertise to the table.
Focusing on the right things
Aligning priorities allows you to focus your efforts on the most impactful tasks and initiatives. This entails understanding the key tasks and objectives that the executive team wants the legal department to concentrate on.
Communicate with the executive team to gain valuable insights into the organization's immediate needs and expectations. Once armed with this information, you can effectively distribute the workload within the in-house department. This allocation ensures that resources are appropriately deployed, and efforts are directed towards the tasks that align with the company's overarching goals.
“The first thing is to make sure you delve deeper into the business and the product. And then understand the strategic initiatives for the business. What is the business trying to accomplish? What are their goals, objectives over the next two quarters, four quarters, or six quarters? You can then focus your efforts and energies on ensuring that you're helping move the company forward with those objectives and goals.”
~ Adam Glick, Head of Legal, Intercom
Cultivating Meaningful Connections for In-House Legal Success
The benefits of aligning priorities extend beyond efficient task management. It also strengthens the relationship between the legal department and company leadership.
“The first step to building trust with cross-functional teams, from senior executives to your peers to more junior individuals, is recognizing that not everyone has interacted with a lawyer in the past. Or if they have in the past, they may not have had the most positive experience.”
~ Doug Luftman, ex-DGC, DocuSign
The Key to Success as an In-House Legal Counsel & Leader
By focusing on the right things at the right time, you become trusted partners in the eyes of business stakeholders. This partnership fosters a culture of collaboration and mutual understanding, where legal expertise is leveraged to address the most critical legal challenges and provide timely guidance.
“The business started to view us as partners in terms of focusing on the right things, at the right time, with the right amount of effort."
~ Sterling Miller, CEO and Senior Counsel at the Hilgers Graben law firm
How legal teams can show their value during times of uncertainty
Examining the use of outside counsel
Managing external legal costs is a key consideration for legal departments looking to optimize their budget. The ability to compare these costs with in-house expenses provides valuable insights for decision-making. This data-driven analysis plays a pivotal role in shaping decisions about which tasks should be retained in-house and which ones can be outsourced.
Additionally, this information can guide financial conversations, providing concrete numbers and supporting discussions on resource allocation.
However, it is important to approach cost analysis and decision-making with caution. While cost savings are a significant consideration, it is crucial to strike a balance and consider the value that specialized expertise from external law firms can bring.
Not all legal matters can or should be handled in-house, particularly high-value litigation matters that may be better suited to specialist law firms.
“We have a good litigation database, and we want to leverage it better by implementing an AI-powered tool that would help us with relevant precedents from the cases we have previously settled and ultimately reduce the time we clock with external counsel.”
~ Sandeep Chowdhury, Group GC, HCC Ltd.
Transforming the Legal Function at a Large Enterprise
To effectively manage the use of outside counsel, you can benefit from fostering strong relationships with the finance department. By involving finance in discussions about the use of outside counsel, you can gain valuable insights into budgetary constraints, financial priorities, and cost management strategies.
This collaborative approach helps align legal priorities with the overall financial goals of the organization, ensuring that decisions regarding the use of outside counsel are made with a holistic view of the organization's financial landscape.
Moreover, building strong relationships with finance will enable you to effectively communicate the value and importance of specialized legal support when necessary. It allows for transparent discussions about the costs and benefits associated with external legal resources, providing finance professionals with a comprehensive understanding of the business case for utilizing outside counsel in specific circumstances.
Planning and adapting to changes strategically
Adaptability is key. Legal teams must be prepared to respond swiftly to changing circumstances, including shifting regulations, market dynamics, and business needs.
You must embrace a mindset of flexibility and openness to change, constantly evolving to meet the demands of unstable environments. It may also require revisiting strategies, revising timelines, or reallocating resources to align with emerging priorities. This adaptability empowers legal teams to navigate unforeseen challenges while ensuring compliance and mitigating risks.
Uncertain times also present unique opportunities for innovation and growth, and you can leverage your expertise and knowledge to identify areas where innovative solutions can drive efficiency, cost savings, and improved outcomes.
Furthermore, uncertain times may bring opportunities for growth and expansion into new markets or business areas. This is where you can play a pivotal role in assessing the legal implications of such endeavors and providing guidance on risk management and compliance.
A strategic and adaptive mindset goes a long way in helping legal successfully navigate uncertainty and position themselves as valuable partners in achieving long-term success for the organization.
Best practices to demonstrate the true value of legal to the organization
In uncertain environments, legal teams face the unique challenge of proving their value to the organization. However, there are ways through which you can position your team as a key asset in your organization.
#1 Use data to quantify legal work
The best way to showcase your value is by capturing and analyzing relevant metrics to provide tangible evidence of your contributions to the organization. Metrics can include factors such as cost savings from successful litigation outcomes, reduced regulatory compliance risks, or minimized contract disputes.
This data-driven approach allows you to illustrate your contributions to the organization's financial health, risk management, and overall strategic objectives. It also provides a basis for informed decision-making and resource allocation.
#2 Align legal goals with organizational objectives
As I said before, to demonstrate value effectively, you must align your goals with the broader objectives of the organization. Actively participate in cross-functional discussions and initiatives to demonstrate their commitment to the organization's success.
“Legal should be pushing businesses forward, not just receiving tasks. So, if a legal team doesn't equally view themselves as part of the business, actively making business decisions along with the marketing, product, and finance teams, then the symbiotic relationship between legal and business is lost. And I question really the value of legal over the long term of a company unless I can propel it differently than it's operating today.”
~ Megan Niedermeyer, Chief Legal Officer, Apollo.io
Aligning Legal's Limitless Potential to Business Goals
#3 Educate stakeholders on the value of legal team's work: shining a spotlight on contributions
To bridge the gap between the legal team's work and its perceived value, proactive communication and education are key. Legal departments can take the initiative to engage with stakeholders across the organization, including executives, department heads, and key decision-makers. Share success stories, case studies, and the impact of legal initiatives to showcase the value you bring to the table.
Educating stakeholders about the complexities and nuances of legal work helps create awareness and appreciation for the contributions made by the legal team. By demystifying legal processes, explaining the rationale behind decisions, and highlighting the proactive risk mitigation efforts, you can enhance your reputation and gain recognition for your value-adding role.
#4 Leverage a CLM solution to demonstrate legal’s value
“You need to tell stakeholders what your team is up to. Otherwise, leverage tools such as CLMs to showcase how your team has contributed to closing deals effectively."
~ Juliette Thirsk, Head of Legal at Peach Payments
Streamlining Legal at a FinTech Startup
In an era where data-driven decision-making reigns supreme, you can leverage a CLM solution like SpotDraft to effectively demonstrate your value in concrete and measurable ways.
The integration of legal technology solutions, such as contract management systems, e-discovery tools, and AI-powered analytics, will empower you to streamline processes, enhance efficiency, and deliver more comprehensive insights.
Moreover, SpotDraft helps you derive relevant metrics and KPIs tailored to the legal department's objectives to showcase your value in quantifiable terms. These metrics may include factors like cost savings achieved through negotiations, successful risk mitigation, time saved through automation, or enhanced compliance levels.
Building resilience and agility
Resilience is more than just bouncing back from setbacks; it is about embracing challenges, adapting to change, and thriving in the face of adversity. You can foster a culture of resilience by promoting open communication, collaboration, and support among team members.
Encouraging a growth mindset that embraces continuous learning and innovation will help your team navigate uncertain waters with confidence. By creating an environment where team members feel empowered to voice their ideas, learn from failures, and explore new approaches, resilience becomes ingrained in the team's DNA. This collective resilience enhances problem-solving capabilities, increases adaptability, and fuels creativity in finding solutions to complex legal challenges.
Another way to navigate uncertain times is by taking challenges and setbacks as not roadblocks but stepping stones to growth and improvement. Each obstacle presents an opportunity to evaluate existing processes, identify areas for improvement, and implement changes that enhance performance.
By conducting thorough post-mortem assessments of challenging situations, you can extract valuable insights and lessons learned. These insights can inform future decision-making, refine strategies, and strengthen resilience in the face of similar challenges.
Embracing change and showcasing worth in uncertain times
From understanding the role of legal teams in uncertain times to enhancing communication, aligning priorities, and examining the use of outside counsel, legal professionals are constantly challenged to prove their worth to the organization.
By utilizing data, aligning goals with organizational objectives, and educating stakeholders on the significance of their work, you can bridge the gap between your efforts and their perceived value.
So, rise to the challenge, demonstrate your value, and play an instrumental role in shaping the success and resilience of your organization during uncertain times and beyond.