Given that legal departments are often perceived as a cost centre by the rest of the business, a requirement for technology investments is that they must keep expenses down or increase efficiency. According to the Legal Departments in a Digital Era report, by Wolters Kluwer and the European Company Lawyers Association (ECLA), the following steps are the most popular among legal departments when it comes to increasing efficiency between now and the next three years:
- Greater use of digital tools and solutions (85%)
- Redesigning and restructuring processes (69%)
- Having a central repository (50%)
- Giving more autonomy to the business (45%)
Maurits Annegarn, Segment Manager Legal Software, outlines the importance of giving more autonomy to the business, because “one of the quickest and easiest ways to increase efficiency in the organisation is to give more autonomy to the business. However, many legal departments feel they are either not in a position to initiate change outside their department, or are fearful of relinquishing control.”
What’s the solution for legal departments that want to retain control, but don’t have the time to look at every document or respond to every request? Maurits explains, “the key here is to look for ‘business enabling’ solutions, that will allow the business to self-serve those kinds of action you are probably glad to be rid of anyway. What this will do is actually increase control and auditability of legal processes, all while actually increasing the speed of business. That it will also elevate the reputation of legal department internally is just a pleasant side-effect.”
In this article we’ll take a look at ways legal technology can help you give more autonomy to the rest of the business.
Easy access to information:
If documents are stored in multiple places throughout the organisation, not only is it unclear who is responsible, but also who can access which documents. If contracts are stored in your colleague’s inbox, who has access when your colleague leaves the organisation?
Without an easy, centralised place to access documents, colleagues will send the legal department requests to confirm details like counterparties, and renewal deadlines – things they could easily look up themselves. A big part of providing autonomy to the business is allowing colleagues to access documents in a controlled way.
A centralised database like Legisway Essentials is the answer to providing autonomy to the business by allowing colleagues to access documents in a controlled way. Depending on who has access to the centralised database, colleagues can look up information on their own.
When a colleague in another department needs a standard contract, such as an N.D.A. they will often send a request to the legal department. Attending to requests for standard documents costs time, but legal departments continue to operate this way because they guarantee they can retain control. The downside is that the legal department becomes a bottleneck, and colleagues may turn to creating their own contracts or documents when they get tired of waiting. How can you prevent a colleague from creating a document that might expose the business to risk?
Standardising document creation is key to reducing errors while legal still retains control. Document automation software such as Legal SmartDocuments uses contract templates and standardised clauses that are managed and approved for use by legal. In order to create a contract, a colleague fills in the blanks and exports a valid contract. If a contract deviates from the norm, an alert can be sent to the legal department to review.
If several colleagues review a document, suggest changes and either accept or reject them, it gets confusing very quickly with conventional solutions. It’s difficult to keep track of all the versions and the document can end up in the wrong hand if it’s sent back and forth between external parties. The document you end up with is the result of many rounds of revision and inconsistencies, which can expose the business to risk.
By using a cloud-based collaborative tool, TeamDocs simplifies the processes associated with reviewing and finalising documents. You can set tasks so that the right people are able to review and approve.
One of the biggest challenges for legal departments today is to respond to requests in a timely manner, without becoming a bottleneck, despite the increase in requests and the complexity of the issues.
By providing more autonomy to the business, legal departments are in control without having every single document cross their desk. At the same time, they free up more time to focus on more strategic matters.Curious to learn more about the progress that legal departments in Europe have made, and their future priorities? Download the Legal Departments in a Digital Era report.