What is the Role of the Legal Department Within a Company?

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Over the last few years, the importance of legal services has grown significantly. According to a survey on legal departments carried out by the consultancy LEXqi Conseil, nearly three-quarters of legal directors are now involved in their company’s executive committee. This marks an increase compared to 2018. 

Therefore, it is fair to ask why legal departments are so important within companies. What are the functions and responsibilities of the legal team? What is its strategic role? 

Definition of a legal department

The legal department is the section of a company responsible for keeping that company’s operations compliant with all the relevant laws and regulations. It is made up of lawyers and legal experts and are considered to be the company’s legal counsel. 

Legal monitoring makes up most of their day-to-day workload. Lawyers have to ensure that they remain up to date at all times on all the various standards and laws that affect the company’s business. This requires a great deal of precision and rigor, as legal standards are constantly evolving, which can potentially impact everything the company does. 

At the same time, the legal department also plays the role of advising and fostering awareness: it must be constantly communicating with all the other departments to ensure that regulations are being properly applied, especially when there have been recent changes or developments. As such, the legal team’s expertise is called on for every project, in the context of contract negotiations and, of course, for decisions made by the executive committee. 

As it is responsible for the compliance of the company’s business activities, the legal department also takes action in the event of internal and external conflicts, and, if necessary, in the management of legal proceedings. 

Responsibilities and competences of the legal department

Profile of a lawyer 

A good lawyer should ideally embody all of the following qualities and skills:  

  • perfect command of business law 
  • extensive knowledge of the business sector that the company operates in  
  • unrivaled precision and meticulous attention to detail  
  • good interpersonal, communication and simple explanation skills  
  • an analytical mind, which is essential for guiding decision making  
  • skilled in diplomacy and drafting, especially in disputes and contract drafting. 

Risks managed by the legal department 

The risks managed by the legal department can vary depending on the company’s business sector. Most of the regulations and disputes they deal with are industry-specific (banking, real estate, online services, food and drink, etc.).  

However, some risks are more general and remain the same even between sectors. They mostly tend to evolve along with technological innovations and societal shifts.  

According to a 2021 study by Cercle Montesquieu, the most common risks managed by legal departments are:  

  • data protection, which is an issue for 82% of legal departments
  • corruption and money laundering, tackled by 62% 
  • corporate social responsibility (CSR), a common challenge with 62%. 

These are followed by human and social issues, such as respect for human rights and diversity. All of the above are generic, in that they apply to all business sectors; however, a company’s concerns can always shift and evolve over time.  

For example, interest in data protection risks surged in 2018 following the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). 

Contract management 

All companies have various types of contracts to manage, such as internal ⁠— the most common being employment contracts ⁠— and external, with suppliers and, of course, clients. These contracts are crucial documents, often processed in large volumes and handled by multiple parties and departments: purchasing, sales, human resources, finance, and of course, the legal department.  

Whether the contracts are related to purchasing, business negotiations, or even standard recruitment contracts, all of these documents must strictly comply with all the relevant standards. Why? Because even the slightest mistake can prove very costly, both legally and financially speaking – not to mention the issue of the company’s reputation if the dispute becomes public. For all these reasons, the role of the legal department is paramount when it comes to contract management.  

On a day-to-day basis, lawyers are responsible for ensuring that all contracts are compliant and that their performance is in line with all clauses. They also contribute to the process before the contracts are even signed, during the drafting and negotiation stages. This requires meticulous monitoring and regular discussions with other departments within the company.  

DiliTrust provides the solution for legal departments

DiliTrust’s Contracts module is a Contract Lifecycle Management solution. In other words, it is a tool that automates the management of contracts throughout their lifecycle. As the brainchild of former lawyers, this tool makes legal professionals’ daily workload a great deal lighter and simpler, freeing up their time (and mental space!) for high-value-added tasks: providing legal opinions, giving advice, and making key decisions. 

The Contracts module helps legal experts do away with all the time-consuming tasks involved in contracts: drafting (copying/pasting clauses), searching for information, carrying out all manner of checks, and so forth. 

Thanks to algorithms that use artificial intelligence, contract management is not only easier than ever but also more secure, from drafting to signing, as well as the ongoing execution monitoring phase.  

The result is improved control over contracts not just for lawyers, but for all employees involved: the risks of disputes, mistakes and financial losses drop dramatically, while the speed at which contracts can be processed is much faster, allowing the company to sign more than ever before. 

Want to know more about our CLM solution? Contact us!  

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