As a contracts specialist at HubSpot, Ashlyn Donohue held a hybrid role in which she provided legal operations support and worked on both buy-side and sell-side commercial transactions.
While serving as the software company’s first ops hire, one focus of her work was building out playbooks that detailed how to intake contract requests. Donohue also worked on playbooks for closing out requests for the review of contracts as part of the vendor lifecycle.
She said these projects required the in-house legal department to work collaboratively with cross-functional stakeholders, such as security and finance, to ensure the departments were on the same page about standard operating procedures.
Donohue also said her hybrid role helped cement her belief that everyone on an in-house legal team should have a hand in legal ops work.
This ops-focused mindset is something she has brought with her to her current role as director, legal at the contract lifecycle management (CLM) software company LinkSquares.
“Remaining adaptable and ensuring folks across the team are identifying areas where there is opportunity to create operational, cross-functional efficiency gains through process and system optimizations — and acting on such recommendations — will enable scalable results across fast-growing companies and legal teams,” Donohue told Legal Dive.
Donohue, who joined LinkSquares last year, said one of her first ops-related initiatives at the CLM provider was thinking about ways to optimize and enhance the company’s vendor procurement workflow.
This required working with other departments to ensure everyone was getting the visibility they needed into the workflow and could collaborate with one another in a streamlined fashion.
“The vendor workflow is an area where there's a lot of cross-functional business partners that have a say or some perspective as to what you're going to be doing when you're engaging a third party, whether that’s security from a potential risk perspective or finance from a budgeting perspective,” Donohue said.
She also said the vendor workflow can sometimes be a contracting area where different teams feel siloed and business requesters have to submit individual requests to different departments.
Utilizing LinkSquares’ own technology has helped prevent such issues with the vendor procurement workflow.
“A tool like LinkSquares gives you the ability to really consolidate and streamline that process and intake flow for your business requesters and ensure everyone has cross-line of sight into what they're doing,” Donohue said.
Donohue, who previously worked in-house at Oracle, has also focused on helping the LinkSquares legal team determine what type of metrics to track and report about its operations.
She said volume reporting metrics are useful for in-house legal teams to monitor, especially those that focus on the amount of requests for assistance legal teams are supporting.
“It could be the number of unique deals that a legal team is reviewing in any given month, quarter or year,” Donohue said. “It could be the number of deals the legal team has reviewed that were fully signed and understanding how much of an impact that is having on the revenue organization if you’re looking at your sales contracts.”
Additionally, it is wise for legal departments to focus on their turnaround times and whether they are meeting their commitments under service-level agreements (SLAs) with internal business units.
“Data enables you to say, ‘Do we have realistic SLAs set with them? Are there adjustments we need to make?’” Donohue said.
Hiring with ops in mind
Donohue is currently hiring for a commercial counsel position at LinkSquares, and she said there will definitely be an operational component to the role.
This ops work will likely include thinking about ways to optimize internal playbooks already in place and creating new ones, whether that is in the contracting realm or other areas of the legal department’s duties.
The new hire will also be expected to understand the inner workings of internal systems LinkSquares uses and support the implementation of them.
“I’m looking for individuals who are interested in rolling up their sleeves and being a part of thinking about how we can scale our team’s support of the organization through an operational lens,” Donohue said.