The challenge that was articulated repeatedly during CCCE Berlin was ‘how to do more with less’.
In-house counsel and heads of legal frequently cited that they are being asked to do more for their business, often with a static or reduced budget. That is challenging enough, but in-house legal teams are under pressure to deliver more value to the business too. It seems like an impossible ask, but we heard several examples of General Counsels who have been transforming their legal departments from the ‘slow-and-no’ department into a strategic business partner.
Michaela Kay from Bombardier emphasised the importance of leadership to align the legal function with the strategy and objectives for the business, then developing the capability of the team and finally deploying tools and technology to drive efficiency. This approach was echoed by Stacey Van Hooven from Essity and Andrew Thorson from Johnson Controls in their fireside chat session. Stacey’s recommendation was to start with a deep understanding of the business, then go into the business to get involved, explaining how the legal department can help to drive growth and formulating practical legal advice to support the business. Andrew added that Johnson Controls now use KPIs that are aligned with the business to track their performance.
It was the emphasis on the importance of people that really hit me. As a technology vendor, it is easy to get carried away by the benefits that technology can deliver, but we all know about technology projects which failed to deliver, either because they weren’t embraced by the people affected or they simply weren’t a good fit for the business. In his presentation entitled ‘Driving Efficiency Through Legal Technology’, David Saunders from Eversheds Sutherland talked about delivering change through people, process and technology, but emphasised the importance of the people – considering them in the planning, allowing for repeated training, keeping them engaged.
It all made me realise we often talk about people, process and technology in relation to transformation projects, but what isn’t obvious is that they should be considered in that order too. It was the interactive discussion hosted by Magali Valat from Nexans that cemented this realisation. As a prompt for the discussion, Magali provided example actions she and her team have taken to support their business – providing just four points to include in tenders, rather than a lengthy set of terms if they are not necessary – giving their sales team flexibility in contract negotiation by providing an app that gives them the framework. It was all about small changes, aligned with the business, where the technology is selected to fit the need.
I came away realising there is a model for doing more with less and although the detailed implementation will be different for every business, the steps are probably always applicable:
- Have a strategy and a plan for transitioning the legal function to align with the business, communicate it to the business and start working with the business
- Make changes through people, process and technology - start with the people, develop processes and bring in technology to fit your chosen way of working
- Work in small steps, pursuing your strategic roadmap
So the next time I am talking with in-house legal teams about adopting technology, I will be mindful that the process should come before the technology. Fortunately, we already work that way as our process automation software has a simple drag and drop approach to implementing our clients processes, so we’re ready to help GCs to deliver more for less.
To discover how autologyx can help inhouse counsel ‘do more with less’ check out ALXLegal.