The legal function of the future

The legal function of the future

How can general counsel prepare for the demands of the future? On 5th April 2017, the LexisNexis In-house Advisory Board met to discuss what the future holds for in-house legal and to share practical advice on staying one step ahead.

The session was facilitated by Juan Crosby, a partner in PwC’s Technology & Sourcing legal practice. Juan advises clients to help create the right mix of people, process and technology for the legal function to deliver an effective service.

A changing market

The session opened with a discussion about the external and internal drivers for change, including regulatory and political change and the pressure on legal to add value to a dynamic business. To move with these changes, legal need to break long-established practices by working cross-functionally, using new technology and utilising external providers. The starting point is an analysis of the capabilities and structure of the team that can be used to inform new ways of working and the reallocation of resource.

Becoming a strategic business partner

Legal are being challenged to think more strategically. Being perceived as a profit driver rather than a cost centre requires a close alignment with the goals of the business and a continual refinement of service delivery. The Board discussed how transformation into a strategic business partner can be achieved, including:

  • Reassessing the team operating model: Is the current structure right for the company strategy? Is the team as effective as it could be? How can technology and external providers benefit the business?
  • Taking on new roles that are pivotal in driving the business forward.
  • Capturing legal knowledge to enable other parts of the business to self-serve.
  • Developing an efficient system for capturing requests from the business.

Implementing transformation

Transformation doesn’t necessarily mean instant wholesale change. Incremental changes make a significant difference and, if successful, can get traction for building a business case for larger projects. Focusing on a drive to cut costs and budgets can pave the way to getting buy-in from the rest of the business. Having someone dedicated to driving the project forward and senior enough to influence the senior leadership team is essential.

Legal technology: re-designing conventional activities

Contracts are one of the more routine tasks that can benefit from automation. Technology simplifies the lifecycle of a contract, making the process more efficient. It enables the business to increasingly self-serve and frees up the legal team to do more strategic work. When a process becomes automated, what skill sets are needed to support the remaining legal work? Can it be outsourced?

When adopting legal technology, it is important to focus on the process first rather than let the software drive the decision. An analysis of the end-to-end process is essential for clarifying the issues that need addressing before choosing the most effective tool to tackle them.

The future

GCs would be well advised not to rest on their laurels. To start to successfully plan the legal function of the future, they must:

  • Understand the perception of legal and focus on valuable work through business stakeholder engagement.
  • Improve legal effectiveness and efficiency by analysing activity.
  • Understand the external cost base and how it can be improved.
  • Understand how new and existing technology can free up resources.

Read a full summary of the roundtable session here.

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