The term’ strategic plan’ is thrown around often, but it is sometimes used interchangeably with the term ‘business plan.’ While there are certain similarities between the two, the strategic plan of an in-house department is more than just a document.
A typical strategic plan will consider several aspects of the business, including the legal department’s role in it. Businesses often include in-house counsels as part of their risk management, litigation, and documentation review strategy. A well-thought-out strategy for the in-house counsel is instrumental in streamlining various processes within the organization.
In-house counsel: what are their specific responsibilities?
In-house counsel provides their organization with relevant advice on various legal matters. There are several roles and responsibilities that come with being an in-house counsel:
- Providing timely and relevant advice to its employer/organization: Keeping track of legal news, updates, and regulations within its employer’s industry is crucial to the role. This helps the legal counsel provide accurate and relevant advice to its organization on topics relating to its business, products, or services.
- Legal documentation: The in-house counsel is also responsible for drafting, reviewing, proofreading, and negotiating any contracts, agreements, NDAs, and deals directly communicating with its organization. This helps them assess documents for any risks and legal issues and keep track of all documentation.
- Ensuring compliance within the organization: Keeping the organization abreast of all laws and regulations that apply to its business is vital for the in-house counsel. This includes promoting best practices of compliance and risk management within the organization.
- Leading communications with external legal teams: The in-house counsel also manages communications with external legal teams such as external counsels or auditors. This keeps all legal communication in one place and streamlined.
Create a culture of preparedness
Having a strategic plan for your organization’s in-house counsel can help create a culture of preparedness. One of the critical steps in the strategic plan is sharing relevant client information. This aids in preparing them for any potential legal issues such as risk management, crisis management, compliance, and product safety of both the organization and its clients.
Additionally, it is advisable to have the in-house legal team review policies and procedures regularly to craft a strategic crisis management plan for any potential risks and issues. This would require the evaluation of existing reviews, training, planning, and business reputation. In such situations, a streamlined legal flow proves helpful with everything available in one place that has quick and easy access.
How to navigate mergers and acquisitions
The legal counsel of an organization should ideally be involved from the beginning of the transaction.
This allows them to understand all dynamics of the deal and navigate their way into getting the best value out of it.
As with any merger or acquisition, gathering and evaluating documentation is vital. There are requirements for auditing any pertinent documents such as outstanding contracts, potential legal liabilities, financial statements, and projections. The in-house legal counsel must gather these documents and go through them for any legal issues before sharing them with the concerned party.
Having a digitization strategy for these documents through Litigation management software can help find and manage these documents with more efficiency. Security is a concern for corporate legal departments when sharing such confidential documents. Legal departments handle extremely sensitive files, including contracts, real estate holdings, and vital information about company financials and legal disputes.
Ideally, access to sensitive files should be traceable, with the ability to view audit logs of who has accessed files and when. This further allows for clear communication between the buyer and the seller, resulting in a streamlined and smooth deal.
In summary, it is essential to have a well-thought-out strategy for your in-house counsel. Clearly defining their roles and responsibilities and mapping out how they can navigate critical processes helps create a culture of preparedness. Finally, including a digital strategy for the counsel can improve efficiency and increase data security when sharing and reviewing necessary documentation during deals, mergers, and acquisitions.
Board evaluations must be conducted regularly.
The frequency of board meetings depends on the company’s size and requirements. The problem with most performance reviews is that they are done after the fact, which means that someone is trying to “cast a stone.” For this reason, investors want to see boards evaluate their performance before the actual review takes place to know if any changes need to be made in the way they do business.
How boards perform board evaluations
Effective board evaluations can help gain valuable insights. Board evaluations typically comprise of a set of essential questions, which can be done collaboratively and individually. Additionally, short evaluations can be conducted to ensure the effectiveness of board operations, and more extended evaluations should be done annually to gain insights on more significant aspects such as business plans, financial performance, and board strategy.
The main reason a board evaluation is done is to review board efficiency. Therefore, the first step of conducting an evaluation will be to set expectations of what the board wants to achieve. Having clear objectives with specific goals will help in the later stages of the board evaluation. There should also be a well-defined strategy on who will be evaluated. This generally comprises the whole board, the board committee, individual directors, the CEO, and the company secretary. Brief evaluations may not include all the listed groups.
Evaluations can be performed using several methods and tools such as questionnaires, surveys, self-assessment tools, interviews, polls, and focus groups. Most board committees will choose tools that work best for their company culture and goals of the evaluation. Additionally, whether the evaluation is internal, external, or both, technological tools may be implemented to make the process more efficient and secure.
The skills that boards look for in directors
Conducting a board evaluation also helps understand the skills that boards look for in directors. Every director possesses a blend of skills and experience that boards look out for, such as industry knowledge, financial management, and risk assessment.
During some evaluation processes, various members are expected to share information about their skills, fellow board members’ performance, and overall board performance. This helps them understand the directors’ skills to the board and what they should look out for in the future. Some types of information that is expected to be shared are:
- Strategy, risk, and financial performance: This could be reviewed through internal, external, or self-evaluations. Reviewing these skills will help understand the overall board performance and the individual’s understanding and application of these skills.
- Board composition and structure: An overview of the board and its members helps assess the board’s structure based on the size of the company. Individual assessments could be done to see how board members evaluate each other and if additional members are needed to have a streamlined structure flow.
- Company integrity, reputation, and culture: A company’s culture and ethics are essential as they play a crucial role in keeping board members motivated. Aspects such as the company’s vision, objectives, and how the current board members align with the organization’s mission are areas that could be reviewed.
- Management performance and succession planning: Succession planning is a best practice observed by board members and executives to ensure that organizations overcome any transition they may face. Having it as part of the evaluation process helps avoid any surprise exits or retirements.
Evaluations and reviews of the board are vital in maintaining a seamless growth and succession plan when applicable. The process helps boards identify critical gaps they may need to fill and create a list of skillsets they are looking out for in their future selection process. Therefore, it is crucial to know which skills you should focus on in your candidature and how this would add value to the company.
The DiliTrust Governance suite’s Board Portal module includes a board assessment tool that is secure, intuitive, and collaborative. The online portals feature entirely digitized document management, allowing you to evaluate measurable metrics such as minutes, votes, and polls. It optimizes Governance practices making recurring processes such as board evaluations more streamlined, efficient, and secure.
Many businesses have had to go through rapid digital transformation in the last couple of years.
This accelerated change has resulted in certain challenges for departments, such as legal departments. The number and complexity of transactions required of in-house legal departments have never been greater. The explosion in e-commerce, new channels such as mobile commerce and m-banking, and corporate governance regulation in specific industries, make the adoption of sophisticated systems more critical than ever before. Here’s how your company can overcome legal technology challenges.
Establish a technology committee in your legal department
Establishing a technology committee in your legal department will help create a link between the department head and the end users for effective interaction. As a result, this ensures efficiency and harmonization of various technology implemented.
Additionally, a technology committee will also be responsible for assessing technological requirements, keeping a tab of updates on technology being used, and setting up tech-based platforms for your company. Furthermore, the committee can also help setting up training programs on new technologies and platforms for the company. This ensures that the team is always up to date with their technology and all technological needs are addressed.
Recognize that choosing the right vendor is critical
Once a technology committee is established, the team must be able to identify the right vendor for the company’s legal technological needs. Various aspects go into selecting the right vendor. The best way to start is by shortlisting a few contenders and then assessing your options.
You can eliminate a few contenders from the list based on your budget. Once this is done, one of the steps in choosing the right vendor would be to figure out who the industry leader is. Look for a company that is growing or is on top of the list. You likely want to engage with a top company than one that is not growing. Aspects to consider include what kind of services they offer, how often they come up with new services or solutions, and if possible, who they are working with within the current market.
Understanding your potential vendor’s market share and value is essential as it helps you understand how serious they are about their growth. This also assures you that they are up to date with their technologies. You can go into further details by setting up conversations and making out a list of questions appropriate to your requirements.
Embrace “social” technology
“Social” technology is any technology that allows for social interactions such as blogs, social networks, and web conferencing. In the case of overcoming legal technology challenges, social tech allows you to leverage both internal and external networks for competitive advantages.
The exchange of information internally and externally is vital to any business. The internal communication of a company usually has an established system in place. Social technology steps in to elevate the use of internal communications and create a pathway for external communications for your company. Tools such as website blogs, social media, and webinars aid in developing a holistic 360-degree communications approach for all your stakeholders – internal and external – also ensuring that all your communications bases are covered.
Remember that everything you do should be measurable and tracked
One of the ways to measure success is through measurable tactics. Therefore, you must begin by setting goals at the beginning of implementing any new technology. These goals can be visited at an agreed time period and evaluated to see how well the new technologies work. This allows you to eliminate technology that may not be working or improve it based on the results.
Some examples of aspects that can be measured are legal spending, spending before and after implementing new tech, time spent on projects before and after new tech, and the level of satisfaction from an end-user.
In summary, given the ongoing challenges in efficiently transforming – the technological demands of enterprise legal departments have historically driven the use of third-party legal technologies. Legal departments are under increasing pressure to prove their value to the business.. To keep up with the changes, it is important to evolve with the times and implement new technologies that can aid the legal department of your company. However, in the process, it is also imperative that any risks are properly evaluated.
If you are streamlining your business operations, the one area you do not want to cut back on is anything that a cybersecurity attack can impact. Sensitive company data in the company legal department and any other sensitive data used and shared by the board should be sequestered into ultra-secure storage and management solutions rather than stored on Google Drive or Sharepoint.
Leaders who are not security-minded may be wondering why they can’t just tack extra security onto Google Drive and Sharepoint and dispense with more secure file management solutions. The answer is that specific files require more security than others, especially those created and used by the legal department and the board.
Download this E-Book to discover the solution to increased cybersecurity threats.
The growth of your business is essential for many reasons. One of the most important aspects is to increase the probability of the business’s survival. Many factors play key roles in the steady growth of your business. Additionally, with technology and digital transformation continually developing, it is crucial to be adaptable.
Download this E-Book to discover the five individual aspects that organizations should consider to help their business grow and succeed!
Mondaq conducted the 2021 Canadian In-House Counsel Survey in partnership with the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association (CCCA). Designed with the oversight of an advisory board composed of some of Canada’s most eminent in-house counsel, the survey report contains an analysis of current issues and future outlooks. Over 460 respondents completed the survey between March and May of 2021. Survey respondents were from public and private companies spanning multiple industry sectors and government organizations and nonprofits.
While the survey contained many insights, the hottest topics were:
- Increased workload and expectations for in-house counsel.
- Equality, diversity, and inclusion initiatives (ED&I), as well as Environment, Social & Governance (ESG), concerns.
- Data privacy and technology investment requirements for legal departments.
Download this white paper to discover the CCCA survey results!
As the legal industry evolves and technology continues to be enhanced to streamline and automate workflows, it’s time to consider the proper vendor selection to modernize your legal contract lifecycle management.
A thought-out digitalization strategy can be instrumental in successfully implementing the technology to modernize effectively.
Improving the Quality of Your Contracts
To improve a contract’s quality, the process first needs to be thoroughly evaluated. It is crucial to evaluate the existing process of all your contacts by identifying the aspects of the process that are working and those that are not efficient.
Document the evaluation in detail to identify the exact pain points and which areas need improvement. Aspects to consider:
- Cost savings
- Risk management
- Use of templates
- Time spent
Once the evaluation is complete, set some measurable goals.
These goals will allow you to build a solid strategy to identify which automation tools are needed before implementing them. A clear strategy is essential to streamline the legal process.
Another way to improve the process and quality of your contracts is by using contract templates. This brings a seamless flow to the process and makes language consistent across the company. As a result, it helps minimize errors and risks while making the process more efficient.
Cleaning Up Data from Multiple Sources
Prior to automation, create different categories to organize your existing data. During this process, look out for duplicated data, mismatching data, incomplete data, and outdated data. Also identify any underlying reasons for data errors, if any. It is also essential to keep your contacts all in one place for easy search.
Once you have a general overview of your data, you can look up automation software options and features to identify what your company will benefit the most from. The most efficient way to clean up data from multiple sources is by automating it. You can explore the option of implementing a centralized hub that can manage all the contracts that come into the company and leave the company. An automated centralized hub will help you stay organized and give you a holistic view of all the contracts in the system. The automation tools will help you search for specific data while gathering from multiple sources, helping you saving time, storage space, and costs.
Analyzing Contracts for Patterns that Could Lead to Risk
In any legal agreement, it is vital to read through the entire contract to look out for any potential risks, terms and conditions set, and any negotiations that need to be made. Generally, there are many back and forth in negotiations involving contracts, with edits being made back and forth. In such situations and with any contract, analyzing the content for patterns that could lead to risk is a best practice.
Once these patterns are identified, templates can be drafted based on risk areas that can be addressed. This will help reduce risks in the future while keeping things more consistent across the company. It also saves the legal department time on reading multiple similar contracts. If a pre-approved template is used, only edits need to be reviewed from there, making the process more efficient.
Leveraging Technology for High Volume Contract Review Work
Contract management solutions and software can make the long and tedious process of contract reviews more organized. The best way that contracts are analyzed for patterns in this situation is through pre-approved templates. If any changes are made, the software automatically sends it to the legal team for review and approval. This saves time, keeps processes streamlined, and reduces potential risks. Additionally, these automation tools and software also keep the contracts stored in one place and give the organization control over the contract life cycle.
In summary, it is vital to choose the right technology to ensure a seamless transition into modernizing your legal contract lifestyle management.
Legal departments are finally participating in digital transformation, which is becoming integral to the productivity and efficiency of organizations looking to stay competitive.
Digital transformation has exploded during the COVID-19 crisis, and it is changing the way organizations function in the long term. This also includes legal departments using digital transformation to boost productivity, improve operational processes, and become key players within their organizations.
Download this must-read E-Book to discover the 3 major reasons to accelerate the digital transformation of legal department processes in 2021!
Technology is at the core of today’s world, especially with remote working taking over.
Many roles and responsibilities are turning to technology-driven operating models. Technology greatly helps improve operational performance, drives efficiency, and reduces costs. Among the variety of roles transitioning, Legal Ops is one such function that has been focusing on automating tasks to drive efficiency in legal departments.
What is Legal Ops?
Legal Operations, popularly known as Legal Ops, is a technology-driven operating model that enforces standards and ensures consistency across departments and lines of business through automation. This, as a result, empowers the legal team of a company to conduct themselves as efficiently as possible. By automating tasks, legal Ops allows for faster analysis of data to monitor legal spending. Every legal matter in every department of a company requires documented evidence to substantiate a case, and Legal Ops helps bring efficiency to this requirement and more.
Legal Ops Job Roles & Responsibilities
Legal Ops is among one of the many crucial roles in a company. The tech-driven model of Legal Ops increases the efficiency of a company and team. As a result, the expectations of a Legal Ops team are many.
- Strategic and business-oriented thinking: One of the critical expectations of Legal Ops is to have strategic and business-oriented thinking. This will help gather and break down vital information details to identify existing and potential roadblocks and present strategic solutions.
- Data-driven mindset: A basic understanding of data helps Legal Operations teams gather and analyze key metrics in a company that can help optimize processes. Additionally, Legal Ops often work together with financial teams to prepare budgets and ensure financial compliance. Therefore, having a basic understanding of data and data analysis can help.
- Strong understanding of technology tools: Legal Ops is a technology-driven role. As a result, having knowledge of and implementing key online or digital tools used in the industry is ideal. This also helps in identifying recurring tasks and digitizing ones where possible, making processes more efficient.
- Being detail-oriented and organized: Legal Ops involves working on different steams and multi-tasking as with any role in most industries. As a team that is bringing organization and efficiency to a company, it is pertinent that the individuals working on this are also able to stay organized. Essential experiences that help with this are project management, adhering to deadlines, and collaboration.
Improving Operational Performance with Legal Ops
As businesses and companies transform with the digital era, legal departments face the challenge of keeping up with the fast-paced digital transformation. Legal departments are expected to increase the pace of critical legal processes and risk-aligned documentation, which could lead to potential issues.
Legal Ops’ technology-driven operations create the opportunity for advanced planning and implementing more streamlined processes. One of the key operational processes that have been adapted is the use of technological tools. With digital transformation growing rapidly over the last couple of years, many tools have been implemented that help get signatures remotely/online. Additionally, legal technology has also grown with this transformation, encouraging companies to focus on key areas such as data security, simplification of invoices and billing, and streamlining case management.
Adopting the Right Technology
The best way to approach the adoption of technology in Legal Ops is to identify the key areas that need to be optimized. It is pertinent that all information is gathered about the company’s departments, their processes, which operations are recurring, and which ones can be streamlined and optimized.
From there, identifying the right technology will be easier. Once a holistic understanding of the various processes across the organization is created, the Legal Ops team can dive into the details of which technologies can work best to streamline operations. Some examples include digitizing signatures, contract management, e-billing, and automation of simple tasks.
Once you reach the implementation stage, it would be ideal to begin with a pilot phase. Technology is a solution, but your company may need to figure out if it is the right solution. Therefore, notify the department that will be using the new legal technology about the changes. Conduct special orientation sessions for individuals who may be new to these technologies or changes. This is one way to also identify any potential roadblocks with the technology that could arise later on.
With that in mind, it is essential to remember that implementing these technologies is to help the company. Legal Ops improves operational performance, reduces costs, and drives business results. More companies are turning to technology-driven initiatives like Legal Ops to enhance lifecycle management.
In the past, being a director was a much simpler task. One had to know how to read financial statements, have good time management skills to review materials, attend meetings regularly, and employ strategic and critical thinking.
Now, being a director means all of the above and more. A director needs to have a good handle on technology, have excellent leadership skills, and everything else required to pass a board evaluation.
Download our latest white paper to discover the 5 skills required to be a better board member.