In-house attorneys can be territorial and slow to change, but if you come to understand how they spend their time and listen to what they say, you can introduce change that they can get behind, legal ops professionals said in a LinkSquares webcast.
To build trust, ask attorneys what would make their job more effective and if you can make a change that reflects that, you build the kind of trust that can help down the road when you introduce a new process, said Deanna Venello, legal operations manager for data management software company Commvault.
“If they trust you, that’s huge,” she said during the Cockpit Counsel episode.
There’s a temptation for a new legal ops person to come in and implement a process or system to create badly needed efficiencies, but you’re better off listening first.
That’s especially the case with contracts. Although the process might be crying out for a solution, you might not know as much about what goes into generating those contracts as you think you do.
“We see what’s happening from a process point of view but we’re not in the contracts themselves or see the interactions legal is having with sales,” said Venello. “So, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to have patience. The process you’ve put in place might not always be the right one. You might have to tweak it.”
A good way to start is to schedule one-on-ones with all of the attorneys and instead of asking open-ended questions, probe in such a way that you get concrete ideas for what’s needed.
“What do you spend your time doing?” said Vanessa Saffold, legal operations manager for data integration company LiveRamp. “What do you wish you were doing that you’re not doing? What do you think the department needs?”
By asking questions that get into the attorneys’ day-to-day tasks, you can identify the change that would create an efficiency for them, which builds trust for future changes.
“They come up with their own efficiencies and all you have to do is take it and run with it,” Saffold said. “It gives them the feeling someone is listening.”
Presenting metrics to attorneys is also helpful, Saffold said during the episode hosted by LinkSquares Chief Legal Officer Tim Parilla.
“You want to report up the metrics [to the general counsel] but it’s also important that the attorneys know what the metrics are,” Saffold said. “They might have a negative attitude but then they realize we’re doing this much and that this is working well. That can sometimes change their whole attitude about how they feel about things.”
Make sure any technical solution you introduce is not appreciably more complicated than what they’re already doing. If a new solution takes them 15 minutes to do what used to take them 5 minutes, you’ll struggle to get buy-in.
“It has to be easy,” said Saffold. “If you have to explain it, you’ve already lost the battle. You’re going to hear, ‘Why am I doing this?’ A legal department likes to plug and play. They don’t want to have it be 10 steps to get something done. They just want a few clicks and be off and running.”
If you can combine ease of use with metrics so attorneys can see how the new system is helping them add value to the organization, you can get them behind the change. And if the system integrates with the other technology the broader organization uses, like Salesforce, even better. That way the sales team can stay in Salesforce and still communicate with the legal team while it uses its tool.
“No one has come up with a one-stop shop situation yet,” said Saffold. “But as a standard, [you want] systems to communicate with one another so there aren’t silos.”
It’s key that legal ops be the people who frame new technology in such a way that it gets used by the legal team, because any software solution is only as good as the data that go into it. If the tool isn’t used every time, it won’t have the comprehensiveness it needs to generate reports, and provide data analytics, that are useful.
“It’s all about the story that you tell,” said Saffold. “When I started, the story we were telling was, ‘What is the volume of contracts? What is the SLA [service level agreement]?’ That’s not really impressive unless you can drill down and tell other stories. You can say we did 500 contracts and last quarter we did 400, but if they hear we did 500 and they were worth $25 million, now they have something to sit up about and say, ‘Oh, we’re really contributing to the bottom line.’”