3 Essential Processes for How Remote Legal Ops Works in the New Normal
From startups to enterprise, Legal Operations across companies and industries share a mission-critical goal: empowering in-house legal to run as an efficient, agile business unit, extending and amplifying resources to effectively support the entire organization at scale. As we recommend, build and maintain systems and processes, Legal Ops professionals today have the unprecedented opportunity to transform Legal — often seen as a blocker to the business — into a valued business partner.
Even, as it turns out, in uncertain economic times brought on by a global crisis.
Like most jobs after COVID-19 hit, my Legal Ops role at Ironclad transitioned to full-time remote, presenting a series of issues for our team. How would we continue to work cross-functionally with our business users in Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and Operations? With every stakeholder OOO and WFH, how would we keep everyone on the same page when navigating the often complex contracting process and our business workflows rolling, even at quarter end?
The work-from-home directive became the ultimate stress test of our Legal Ops ecosystem. Fortunately, in the process, we learned legal operations can be performed efficiently while entirely remote. Below are the three essential contract management processes that enabled it.
1. Software-Assisted Communication: Email Alone Just Doesn’t Cut It
The luxury of popping over to a coworker’s desk is lost in a remote work environment. Questions, requests and issues now funnel through various online channels and medium, swirling in people’s brains, intermixing with tonight’s dinner menu and tomorrow’s grocery list.
This communication overload is not unique to remote work but is certainly exacerbated by it. Related fallout may mean missing a contract request — an appreciable risk when it’s quarter end and redlines need to be returned by EOD. In our new remote world, email alone just won’t suffice: software-assisted communication is key to a lean, mean legal department staying on track.
The Ironclad activity feed and dynamic contract assignment have allowed our legal team to stay on track and accountable as we’ve trek through our first remote quarter. Contract assignment clearly filters and distributes work amongst our team so that, individually, we only have to focus on our immediate deliverables. For example, vendor agreements and NDAs are assigned to me; security documents are assigned to my Legal Ops counterpart, Crystal; and the heaviest lift, ESAs, are assigned to our legal counsel. The upshot? Preliminary, noisy communication is eliminated when a new contract requires review; we can simply dive in without hesitation.
Much like a Slack stream, the Ironclad activity feed keeps chatter confined to a specific contract in one place and allows for in-app @mentioning of colleagues. This enables users to loop in business partners as needed, without running to their desk or chatting in the lunch line (ah, the good ole days). These capabilities help Ironclad Legal move quickly without contracts falling through the cracks.
… software-assisted communication is key to a lean, mean legal department staying on track.
2. Programmed Knowledge Sharing: The Legal Gift That Keeps on Giving
Contract approvals and signature authority are two common issues that can slow an otherwise green-lit sales deal. Mix a remote working culture with a lack of clear designations for internal approvals and signatures and contracting grinds to a crawl. Planning ahead, our Legal Ops team developed and implemented these matrices before going remote, clearly outlining who signs what and when, and who approves what and when. Because these matrices can be built into our Ironclad workflows, a once chaotic step is now seamless and automated.
We have also been able to automate our knowledge sharing capabilities by programming legal-approved fallback provisions into our workflows. In Q419, 60% of our contracts were self-service, meaning no legal review was required. By building fallback provisions into our workflow templates, we empowered our internal users to essentially negotiate low-risk contract clauses without legal resources. For example, in our sales MNDA, reps can dynamically change governing law to pre-approved jurisdictions without legal involvement. The ability to have our departmental knowledge synced with our contracting software allows for agile contract collaboration, from launch to execution.
In Q419, 60% of our contracts were self-service, meaning no legal review was required.
3. On-Demand Reporting: Giving a Better Answer Than “It Depends”
Much of transforming legal from blocker into a strategic business partner is as simple as this: have answers and be helpful. I know from experience that providing clarity is more helpful than the stock legal answer of “Well, it depends.”
Ironclad’s Dynamic Repository, where all our contracts live, empowers our department to clearly provide answers and reports as they relate to our corpus of contracts — all while fully remote. Labeled and tagged, our commercial contracts provide unique data points for every Ironclad department, an aggregate of 60+ distinct use cases. In a matter of seconds we can pull reports ranging from “how many contracts have renewal opportunities this quarter” to “what percent of our customers are headquartered in Canada,” making it easy to be business partners while miles away.
Final Takeaways for Remote Legal Operations
Remote work has been a novel opportunity for Ironclad Legal to stress-test our processes in the new business normal.
Yes, we are still learning how to adjust, but I can’t fathom going on this journey without the help of software-assisted communication, knowledge sharing and on-demand reporting, underpinned by our contract management platform. Because whether we are six feet or six miles apart, being agile and efficient are always essential states for Legal Ops.