Integrating legal and enterprise technology should be a high priority for companies when planning their legal and compliance strategies, but often it isn’t. Indeed, most corporations have not combined these systems, nor have they united their governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) tools or processes. I know this firsthand from talking with GCs and compliance officers, whose responsibilities require coordination of process and information to be successful. Having siloed, disconnected systems means that organizations don not have a holistic view of their legal and compliance operations and spend. And it creates unnecessary barriers to making strategic and informed decisions.. That’s where a legal ecosystem can help.

A legal ecosystem provides the platform to connect data, transforming it into timely information that the legal and compliance functions use in concert to achieve key objectives. An ecosystem solution coordinates the processes, workflows, and performance of a company’s legal, and GRC teams, improving collaboration among partners within the legal group, across business functions, and with outside service providers. It helps to address the significant challenges of running the legal and compliance departments and securely provides the means to better meet the goals of these key functions.

Facing Challenges, Meeting Goals

While corporate legal teams have the domain expertise to protect the company’s legal interests, there are several common operational challenges that most face:

  • Siloed data
  • Disparate processes and technologies
  • Lack of integration among multiple systems

Using a legal ecosystem to address these challenges yields actionable insight that supports organizational objectives and performance, increasing the value that GCs bring to the company. Some of the key advances that an ecosystem of solutions and processes can offer include:

Maximizing the value of legal human capital. Many departments are being asked to do more with the same resource pool, or even reduced resources. The value of the legal function to the business is in the substantive work – a legal ecosystem reduces tracking and administrative work, freeing legal teams to work on legal matters.

Ensuring that Legal is more than a cost center. There was a time when legal teams were simply considered a necessary expense. But GCs now have the opportunity and ability to contribute to the business as it happens, helping the company to not just minimize legal exposure but to meet business goals as well.

Improving operations. When operations are carefully examined, a GC might find that they do not have a truly holistic view into or consistent control of the legal landscape. An ecosystem can provide this clarity and control while increasing security by ensuring users have access to only the specific information needed to perform their tasks.

Keeping up with the business. Legal work is not a simple undertaking but a series of connected events, processes, and tasks – it is important to leverage solutions that support all aspects of this complex and critical function. The quality and timeliness of the legal team’s contributions have a direct influence on the business value.

Building an Ecosystem

When the time comes to implement an ecosystem to meet these needs, keep in mind that this is not an all-or-nothing effort and will likely require a phased approach. Your company’s legal and compliance leaders may have an issue that needs addressing.  Generally, that will start your ecosystem journey. When considering the ecosystem, ask questions such as

  • What are the most critical aspects?
  • How can the effort be divided into phases and what is the goal of each phase?
  • How do we ensure that we’re meeting interdepartmental needs?
  • What will the ecosystem look like when it’s finished?

Next, look at the processes that the legal and compliance teams use to accomplish their objectives. Document, validate, and streamline these processes before addressing technology so that the software tools will support the right approach. For example, the Passport® solution offers a workflow engine that can be customized to reflect the particular practices that each client has in place.

Then build the right team.  Find the internal resources who know the business best – these are the people that will have the necessary experience and insight to hone the existing processes and determine where technology can support them. When choosing vendors, select those that share and understand the vision of your internal team. Focus on keeping ecosystem knowledge internal to avoid too much dependence on professional services and outsourcing.

During the ecosystem development process, take an iterative approach to the work. Show progress while visually validating with your stakeholders that the requirements are correct and the steps the team is taking are moving the department closer to its goals. As stakeholders learn more about what a legal ecosystem can accomplish, the team should revisit requirements and adjust plans as necessary.

It is important to keep in mind that building an ecosystem isn’t an overnight effort. Become comfortable with the project because the overall endeavor could take months or years. There will be many payoffs along the way as phase goals are reached and improvements are made to both processes and technology, but it’s not a quick fix. The end result will be the basis for informed and strategic decision-making that will be a benefit to both the legal department and the company as a whole.

To learn more about how Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions can help you build a legal ecosystem, download a copy of our ebook, “Enterprise Legal Management:  An Integrated Approach to Solving Complexity”.