Legal Department: Dealing with Rapid Change and Disruption
Adopting new technology and hiring staff who had expertise in legal technology was becoming more important in corporate legal departments prior to COVID-19. The pandemic has accelerated this need, as well as the requirement to treat the corporate legal department as an integrated business unit rather than as a siloed department used only for legal work.
A recent webinar hosted by the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, Reimagining Legal Operations, examined the changes that need to happen in order to keep the corporate law department efficient and current. Data-driven decision making, the need for new hires to have technology expertise, and the need for skill sets of current and new employees to change to conform to new realities were all covered.
Eric Sigurdson, a retired Canadian General Attorney who worked in corporate law at Canada Trust for just over 18 years, puts forward much the same arguments on his blog. He goes a bit further from saying accelerated change needs to happen in the legal department to meet new realities and argues instead that the business models and service delivery methods in the corporate legal department have been disrupted.
Davide Paoli, head of corporate law at Bin Haider Advocates and Legal Consultants, echoes much of the same views as well. According to him, there will be less outsourcing and more of a requirement to rely on in-house resources. There will also be more integration with the rest of the business units within the company.
New challenges require current staff and hires to have new skills
Connie Brenton, one of the webinar panelists and senior director of legal operations at NetApp, Inc., said in the webinar that “the expertise that we need now as an in-house associate in a legal department is half business and half legal.” New hires need to have just as much business acumen as they do legal expertise, as well as a familiarity with legal technology solutions. Brenton also shared how her interviews look for new staff right now in the webinar; “One of the first and most important questions that I ask in all interviews is how techie are you? What legal technology are you familiar with?”
Sigurdson argues in his blog that general counsel must balance being a partner to the CEO with being a guardian of the company . This requires chief legal officers or their equivalents to have unimpeachable values, integrity, and responsibility for their team. Having a culture of clearly defined ethics allows leaders to move in lockstep with each other.
Digitization has also been accelerated by the requirements to drive efficiencies in an organization. Sigurdson says, “The crisis is accelerating a process of deglobalization and digitization that was already under way.” He argues that traditional legal departments need to be modernized sooner rather than later, and leaders who do not recognize this may not – and should not – survive the disruption triggered by the pandemic.
Digital does not have to be disruptive to workflows
Paoli states that going digital in the legal world post-COVID19 will no longer be an “esoteric cherry-on-the-cake”, but rather an absolute necessity.
The right legal technology can be put in place in the corporate legal department without disrupting workflows. In fact, the right technology will greatly improve workflows by allowing general counsel to find faster and chief legal officers to generate better reports to show department performance. One such legal technology solution is DiliTrust Governance. It is built by experts who worked in corporate law to meet the very specific needs of that department and is purpose-built to handle all of the changes your department requires.
Reports, for example, can be generated on any number of custom factors including organizational units, real estate holdings across the company or drilled down to a specific area, and M&As that are in progress. In a world where your business leaders may require reports in hours rather than days, DiliTrust Governance has the flexibility to allow you to complete reports quickly and accurately.
Additionally, staff can be onboarded and have a clear dashboard ready and waiting with the workload from the people they are taking over for, ensuring a smooth transition which may have taken a number of weeks in the past.