Look at your people needs and then map that to your process before you look at implementing a contract lifecycle management (CLM) program, the former head of legal operations at Microsoft says.
There’s a temptation to move first to a technology solution when trying to make your legal operations more efficient but that’s a mistake, Lucy Bassli of InnoLaw Group legal ops consultancy said in a webcast taped live at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Global Institute.
The better approach is to implement what Bassli calls a process mapping exercise in which the legal ops team dives into the kind of work that needs to get done, matches that with the right people to do the work and, only after that’s done, vet tech solutions.
“A good process mapping exercise is one of the best uses of your time,” said Bassli, a lawyer who jumped to operations at Microsoft after doing legal work on the company’s contracts. “You immediately identify inefficiencies. You immediately identify opportunities. It sounds boring. It’s not nearly as exciting as a tool or a system or a big launch of a new application, but it’s an easy first step that people can take today to see improvement tomorrow. So, I almost want to get people to not jump to technology until they do a little bit of that homework first.”
Matching people to work isn’t just about the mix of legal talent on the team, she said. It could involve having specialists in other departments take over some of the work, even if it involves work on the contracts themselves.
“There’s a natural reflex that happens in law departments when they grow,” she said. “They want to hire more lawyers. The first question I ask is, ‘Does a lawyer need to do that?’ A second question is, ‘Does the person who does that have to sit in legal?’ Why isn’t the business [renewing] a rolling contract? So, we spend a lot of time talking about that.”
Bassli said she moved into legal operations, and then became a consultant, after seeing inefficiencies in managing contracts even at a big company like Microsoft.
“I love, love, love contracts,” she said. “Then I realized, ‘Wow, contracts can be done a little more efficiently.’”
Helping legal ops select CLM software is part of her work as a consultant but she stressed the importance of getting people and processes sorted out first because the software must be configured to how contracts flow through the organization, not vice-versa.
“CLM is truly a combination of legal and operations,” she said. “It is the really quintessential legal operations function, because you have to know what’s inside the four corners of a contract to know how it should flow across a company and how a system can or cannot automate certain aspects.”
Once you complete your process mapping exercise and then your CLM program implementation, you must work just as diligently on refining the configuration, because that can only be done over time.
“I’m afraid [legal ops professionals] are being slightly oversold by some of the providers that you can implement a technology, a CLM system, and it’s one and done,” she said.
It’s not that CLM providers, when they talk about post implementation, promise smooth sailing; it’s that they often say nothing about it, she said.
“And that’s concerning,” she said. “Post go-live is just as much hard work as the pre go-live readiness. ... It has to be thought of as a program. You’re a nurturer of the system who can make little tweaks, do configurations, add new fields, change the fields – do that kind of more technical part.”
Then you need someone to look at the CLM system programmatically to know if it’s doing what you intended it to do.
“Did you expect this system to function the way it’s functioning?” she said. “Are people using it the way you hoped they’d use it? Are people [even] using it?”
Only if it’s making the contracting process as seamless as possible and helping to optimize human resources is it appropriate to call the implementation a success.
“The fact that it’s live and hasn’t broken doesn’t make it a success,” she said.