It’s an unfortunate reality, but in many small organizations the legal department is still seen as a “cost center” and a barrier to “getting deals done”.
As General Counsel, it’s your aim to improve compliance and reduce legal risks across the entire organization. However, when colleagues avoid consulting in-house counsel because Legal is seen as a bottleneck, your role as protector of the organization is undermined.
To address this challenge, it’s up to in-house counsel to equip the organization with the right tools to make it easier to work together in a proactive way. Increasingly, this means adopting technology to boost the efficiency of in-house legal services and transition towards a more strategic, managerial way of working.
Here are 5 tips to improve collaboration between legal and other departments with the help of technology:
1. Share legal information and knowledge
The first way to improve collaboration is by making legal information accessible to those who can benefit from it most. Sharing the latest versions of real estate agreements with Accounting, claim information with Customer Service or sales contracts with Sales, can eliminate walls between departments. A centralized legal information management system can also help you reduce time spent on a variety of admin tasks, from retrieving information for colleagues to reviewing contracts and chasing due dates.
The best way to do this is by storing your documents in a secure, centralized, cloud-based management system, where you can manage access and permission settings according to your organization. Technology like effacts can help you do exactly that – store legal information pertaining to a wide range of legal matters and optimize the way your organization searches, reviews, manages and reports on them. For example, if you need to ensure that compliance policies are adhered to, effacts can make them available to the right colleagues across the business, and help you track who has accessed the documents and when.
2. Empower the organization with access to templates
One of the biggest challenges legal counsel face is the need to be on top of everything, without necessarily being involved in reviewing every single clause, on every contract. To avoid spreading yourself too thin, empower the business with simple, standard contract templates that have your vetting, but will still require your final approval.
Not only can templates save you time, but they can also help each individual department play a more active role in managing their legal risks.
3. Define standard workflows to reduce inefficiency & non-compliance
Any day of the week, in-house counsel can be asked to collaborate on a variety of matters, across multiple business units and entities. Keeping track of requests and managing the work can be challenging. When requests are managed in an unstructured way, how do colleagues know their requests are a priority or when they will be attended to? And better still, how much time are you spending chasing after colleagues to get all the information before you can take action?
By implementing a system to assign tasks and standardize workflows, you can reduce inefficiency and spend more of your time adding-value. By assigning specific tasks to colleagues and defining standard workflows, legal can manage requests in a structured way and everyone involved is alerted to the real-time status of activities. Also, by clarifying who should perform specific tasks, how long each task should take, and which tasks should follow which, you increase efficiency and ensure compliance to company policies and/or regulations.
4. Be proactive in identifying risk
Managing risk is less challenging when everyone has a clear picture of the situation and is working in a collaborative way to identify emerging risks. When you have all of your legal information ready-at-hand, you can make summaries of contract information and share them with colleagues in other departments to ensure that they understand all of the key terms, and risks involved.
But it’s not just about collecting the relevant data when you need it. When your information is out of sight, it’s often out of mind. With technology, you can keep critical events, like contract renewals, filing deadlines, and compliance policies top of mind with alerts and reminders. Empowering managers or department heads to proactively identify risks can help them play a more active role in managing their legal risks and, simultaneously, elevate in-house counsel’s role as one of providing real business value.
5. Provide insights that help departments do a better job
Reports – like those on liabilities and risks, outstanding claims or expiring license agreements – are invaluable to managers, department heads and/or the C-suite. Yet, collecting reliable data and assembling it into easy to understand reports can be a challenge. How much time do you spend per month chasing updates from across the business, plugging numbers into spreadsheets, unsure that your data is accurate?
With technology, you can generate insightful reports to track and communicate information, with the peace of mind knowing that you are collecting the most up-to-date data available. Plus, by managing access rights and permissions, you can allow colleagues to view and export reports as they wish, empowering them to proactively monitor issues and take decisions sooner.
Are you ready to improve collaborating in your organization?
Technology can greatly improve collaboration between departments in daily work, in addressing risk and in taking strategic decisions that bring value to the entire business. Technology can help legal counsel improve efficiency and be more effective in delivering strategic counsel, because the whole company is more legally empowered. To learn more about how effacts can improve collaboration with legal, download the full Collaboration Use Case.