In Late November, The Lawyer presented their conference “In-house Counsel as Business Partner” in London, with Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions as a sponsor. This is an informative event that we are happy to be a part of as we have a great deal of experience helping legal departments progress to full partnership in achieving the company’s business goals.
On both days of the event, I led a deep-dive roundtable discussion during which conference participants shared experiences and ideas about how best to use technology to generate business value for their organisations. Not surprisingly, some collective themes emerged from these discussions, with two of the most common challenges related to the changing role of the corporate legal department:
- Across industries, GCs are looking for ways to demonstrate and quantify the legal department’s value to the business. This ongoing challenge has been a frustration point for many GCs, who must determine which metrics to introduce as well as which technology providers offer the most appropriate solutions for their needs.
- GCs are expected to have a clear view of the business and its goals, often playing an advisory role on the Board of Directors, without compromising the quality of the department’s day-to-day legal work. These competing demands require a level of visibility that many don’t feel they have, and this can make it difficult for legal department leadership to focus on delivering value while maintaining positive outcomes and staying on budget.
The legal community in the UK have reached a consensus that technology solutions are needed to address these and other issues, but there is so much varied technology on offer that it can be confusing for GCs to decide where to start. Fortunately, I speak from experience and can offer some advice, as I did in our roundtable sessions.
Analytics are an excellent starting point because they are relatively quick and inexpensive to establish. In addition, since the results will also be of interest to the business, the first few can help make a case for technology investment, as some KPIs are difficult to track without adequate technology. It is wise to proactively launch a baseline set rather than waiting for measures to be imposed on the department. This provides the opportunity to review and refine early on, before sharing results with senior corporate leadership. Choosing metrics that matter to the overall business will help with the GC’s transition to business leader.
I’ve written previously about the specific KPIs I recommend as a starting point. Once these are established, the GC has at their fingertips an easy way of staying current on details such as in-house and outside counsel staffing and budget performance. From there, it is possible to add more strategic KPIs that help to stay ahead of evolving business needs. For example, a metric comparing the growth of the Legal headcount with that of Sales can help a GC to ensure continued first-rate contract support without losing quality or slowing down due to unanticipated understaffing.
Focus on Efficiency
Analytics are of course useful for understanding all aspects of legal department performance, including internal efficiency. KPIs focused on length of matter life, for example, can help department leaders to ascertain whether internal and outside counsel have been spending the right amount of time on matters in various practice areas. But a GC cannot report on data that isn’t being collected. This type of insight can only be gleaned from metrics if the information is being captured. This is why matter and spend management is such an important part of the legal department’s technology approach.
Because the compliance function is integrally linked to Legal, business leaders expect GCs to provide holistic advice that takes operational realities into account. In order to provide this level of guidance, a GC requires a platform technology capable of rolling up risk and compliance data into the legal department view. The hard work that the compliance team does to identify and mitigate risk is of enormous valuable to the legal department. When the GC lacks access to that information, crucial details can be overlooked, leaving the company vulnerable.
Each of these components is important, but there is no need to take it all on in one project. Start with small changes that yield quick, visible results, such as one or two critical KPIs, then expand into the other areas as business needs evolve. When deciding what technology to purchase, legal leaders should use a roadmap to decide their long-term strategy. Low-cost point solutions will be workable for smaller, less complex departments. For corporates, a comprehensive single-platform strategy allows for seamless integration to existing systems and to new legal process solutions when required, providing long-term scalability, improved user adoption, and increased efficiency when compared to point or homegrown solutions alone.
By concentrating technology priorities around metrics, efficiency, and risk, a GC will have the necessary tools to ensure that the legal department’s contributions are easy to capture and report on. This approach provides the necessary perspective to watch the horizon while ensuring that the current goals of the department are being achieved.
Visit our website for information on the ELM Solutions platform offerings that can help you achieve your department goals.