In early October, legal professionals from across Europe came together in London for ELM Solutions’ 2019 Enterprise Legal Management Forum. I took part as a presenter, but for me, the most valuable aspect of the event was having the opportunity to talk with attendees and hear more about the challenges and changes facing European legal operations teams.
With expert panel discussions, informative presentations, and keynote addresses from both ELM Solutions General Manager & Executive Vice President Jonah Paransky and Richard Tromans, Publisher and Editor of Artificial Lawyer, this year’s forum packed a huge amount of valuable information and perspective into an efficient one-day program that even allowed for networking time.
Based on the conversations I had with attendees and the information shared by expert presenters and panelists during the sessions, here are my top five key learnings from the day.
European legal departments are changing
As in other parts of the world, general counsel in Europe are feeling the pressure of increased expectations. Sound legal advice is still at the core of what GCs deliver, but along with that, they also need to stay aligned with the company’s larger business strategies and demonstrate the value added by the legal department. GCs are expecting this trend to continue, as evidenced by the 2019 GC Barometer report from ELM Solutions, in which 78% of respondents indicated that they expect the legal department’s role to become increasingly strategically focused over the next three years.
As a result of these pressures, legal operations teams are increasingly common in European legal departments. GCs are turning to legal ops specialists to help optimize departmental efficiency and offer new ways of delivering value to internal clients. These specialist teams are also responding to a call from GCs for analytics that will help them make the right decisions and provide the strategic value that is now expected of them.
Innovative technology can help
Not surprisingly, the cultural changes discussed at the Enterprise Legal Management Forum have been accompanied by significant technological changes that address the expanding and evolving needs of legal departments. For example, while e-billing is now commonplace, many legal departments have begun to increase their control over their legal spend by incorporating additional technologies, such as artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytics, and expanding their toolsets into additional workflows.
For example, contract lifecycle management (CLM) can facilitate impressive leaps in efficiency for companies that implement sophisticated solutions on both the buy- and sell-sides of their contract management processes. Having seen the benefits of implementing the right technology tools, legal departments are growing their technology investments to optimize more of their workflows.
Companies are putting data to work
One of the simplest ways to realize additional value is for legal departments to leverage the vast amounts of data they collect. The right tools and processes can help turn dormant data into actionable information that helps improve decision-making and business outcomes. Using data to help solve problems and generate insights directly supports the common legal department drive for increased strategic value. Dashboards can deliver targeted information that is tailored to a specific audience, providing the precise information they need to make the best possible decisions. The usefulness of this data is further enhanced by comparing internal information to external benchmark data that shows how the legal department is performing in comparison to their industry peers.
Insist on customer experience excellence
For me, one of the highlights of the forum was sharing our emphasis on the customer experience with attendees. ELM Solutions has an unrelenting focus on our customers, which underlies all of our offerings and ongoing enhancements. GCs expect the solutions they choose to drive user adoption with the best usability and accessibility, as well as integrations with the tools their legal team members already use. By constantly improving our product user interfaces, offering matter and spend management access within Microsoft Office, and focusing on our award-winning customer service, we ensure that legal departments can direct their energy to getting the best results.
GCs need senior management support for success
Legal departments can only deliver on expectations if GCs have the support of senior management to acquire the necessary technology and staff resources to get the job done. James Outram, Head of Transaction Legal at Avolon, spoke about how to build that support:
- Get buy-in from key decision-makers early and keep them updated on what technology can deliver as you learn more.
- When describing the benefits of technology, be sure to include information on saving time in addition to money.
- Use the expertise of your chosen provider to help make the case.
- Be ready to respond to challenges or go through additional approval steps.
I’m grateful to have been a part of this informative event and to have spoken with so many knowledgeable experts and legal ops professionals. Thank you to all of our guest presenters and attendees for making this year’s Enterprise Legal Management Forum such a success.