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Achieving Effective Cross-Functional Alignment with Legal Operations

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Cross-functional collaboration is a crucial factor to successful digital transformations. Each department in a business is vital to the business’ overall success and relies on other teams and departments to create a symbiotic relationship that maximizes revenue. Alignment with the Legal department – specifically, Legal Operations – is a helpful indicator of overall business health and success.

As the pandemic and other social and economic factors force teams to collaborate remotely, each department has to re-imagine legacy technology and processes. Cross-functional alignment becomes even more important, and the formation of legal ops teams across businesses is proof of this strategic priority. As the glue that holds together the legal function of and touches every department in the business, legal ops deals with more than just compliance and risk management. And as Legal’s role in a business evolves, its relationships need to evolve alongside it. This blog outlines some ways Legal Ops can achieve cross-functional alignment with other departments in the business.

Legal is strategically positioned to collaborate with every department

In addition to being seen as a cost-center, legal teams in less innovative companies tend to operate within a silo except to dictate terms in internal and external contracts. Eighty-seven percent of employees surveyed in a 2018 study on contract management said legal review of contracts can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. This results in drawn-out sales cycles and bottlenecks across departments, for which Legal often gets the blame.

But with more efficient communication, processes, and technology, the legal department can leverage its strategic positioning within a business and create the necessary fluidity between departments. The Legal department can lead the charge to create best practices for cross-functional communications, advocate for the ease of the exchange of information, and ensure that documents are available when needed. This creates an environment of productivity for each department, and in turn, for the company at large.  

A combination of streamlining cross-functional processes and healthy workplace relationships across teams can help businesses thrive both internally and externally.

1. Investing in technology

Leveraging tech tools in the Legal department is good for encouraging collaboration across departments. While Legal doesn’t typically have the biggest tech stack, investing in tools that manage vendor relationships, outside counsel spend, and managing online legal agreements can go a long way. In fact, using modern technology for digital contracting and contract management can give Legal Ops insight into all contracts without needing to micromanage their execution process. It also frees them up to embark on strategic cross-functional initiatives that will impact the business in a major way.

2. Knowledge sharing

Because they work with every single department, Legal needs to find new and innovative ways to share information across departments. Often the in-house expert on compliance (unless there is a specific compliance department), Legal’s knowledge will give the rest of the company guidelines for operating with less risk. This might mean procuring a tool with robust reporting features that every department has access to, or tracking all contracts in a single place and sharing the necessary data with other departments. Legal Ops isn’t the only one who can benefit from using contract data as part of their strategic planning. 

3. Standardizing agreements

In addition to providing strategic business input, the Legal team also protects the business through contracts. However, contracts tend to be the most time consuming aspect of their jobs. Between drafting unique terms for low value contracts, reviewing each sales agreement and vendor contract before it goes out, and keeping track of versions and updates of existing online contracts, Legal doesn’t have time to focus on higher value deals. 

But by distinguishing between standardized (low value, one to many) and personalized (higher value, one to one/few) contracts, Legal Ops can organize contracts better and determine which ones to spend more time on. For example, while they spend time negotiating and redlining high value agreements (like M&A deals), they can create pre-approved terms for other departments to put into and take out of agreements going out for signing.

Strategic planning

Legal Ops cannot and does not form strategy in a silo. In order to be an efficient member of the Legal team, Legal Ops and in-house need to be completely aware of the business’ goals and strategic initiatives, as well as how their role contributes to this goal. Rather, Legal should work with other departments to develop a strategy that aligns with and supports individual departments’ and the overall company’s goals.

Slight tweaks to every day processes like contract management can help improve cross-functional alignment with Legal and Legal Ops. Implementing legal technology like digital contracting can help not only streamline legal’s processes, but also enhance the relationship and cross-functional collaboration between Legal and other departments. 

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