3 Ways Legal Teams Can Drive Cross-functional Collaboration
Corporate legal teams are known for being guardians of stability and continuity, trusted advisors around risk and compliance, and overall protectors of the business. In fact, a recent study revealed that almost half (46%) of enterprise employees consider Legal a trusted advisor, and four out of five (78%) view Legal as protectors of the business — far and away their number one perceived role.
At times, however, legal departments haven't necessarily been viewed as innovators and collaborators. The same study revealed that 61% of employees believe Legal has room to improve responsiveness, and 65% admit to bypassing Legal and their policies as a result. With the critical role corporate legal teams play helping businesses operate in a safe, compliant manner, enterprise employees are putting the company at risk when they circumvent Legal.
What can in-house legal teams do to build bridges and strengthen relationships across the organization? This article shares three things Legal can do to drive cross-functional collaboration and help the entire organization operate more efficiently.
Education and Information Exchange
One way corporate legal teams can build stronger relationships with employees from other departments is through internal education about what Legal does, how they work, and why what they do is so important for the business.
Informal activities like lunch and learn events or similar opportunities to tell Legal’s story can go a long way to form stronger relationships between the legal team and the rest of the business. This is also a chance for enterprise employees to ask questions and share feedback to ensure Legal is aligned with other departments and their priorities — and for Legal to explain the importance of maintaining compliance with various company policies and industry regulations. By working together, Legal and enterprise employees can develop a greater appreciation of what the other does, and create a clear path for growing the business in a safe, strategic manner.
Willingness to Change and Evolve
Another important consideration for today’s corporate legal teams is the ever-changing business landscape and a willingness to adapt and evolve. The shift to remote work created challenges for businesses everywhere, and research supports that. Nearly two in five (38%) enterprise employees say Legal was more responsive before the pandemic, which is understandable given the changes and competing priorities every department has had to deal with over the last two years. But that also means there’s opportunity for improvement. Whether it’s a matter of re-evaluating processes, resetting expectations, or investing in new technology, Legal teams must show a willingness to adapt to better meet the needs of their internal clients.
Adoption of New Legal Technology
In-house legal teams are already moving in the right direction when it comes to technology and innovation. The study shows that about half (47%) of enterprise employees believe Legal makes a positive impact on innovation at their companies, including areas like product development, research, patents, and intellectual property (IP). However, there is still room for improvement in this area, particularly around speed (half of employees say slow response times from Legal adversely affects deal cycles).
By adopting the right legal tech solutions, in-house teams can quickly improve transparency, communication, and collaboration across the organization. Solutions like contract management software, electronic signature software, matter management software, and others not only help legal teams operate more efficiently, but they also help Legal tell the story of what they do and how they impact the business.
Here are a few of the ways contract management software empowers Legal to drive organizational collaboration and improve business outcomes for other departments.
Shared Access to Information
Storing contracts and other key legal documents in a central, secure online repository enables select team members from other departments to access critical information found within the company’s contract portfolio. Most contract management solutions include the ability to control access to specific files and folders on a granular level, meaning you can assign access to relevant documents without allowing unauthorized employees to see sensitive information.
This helps increase transparency as department leaders and other stakeholders can see exactly where their contracts are stored and what’s in those agreements, but it also promotes self-service for inquiries that would have previously gone to the legal team. By providing this level of contract access, enterprise employees can quickly find answers to basic contract questions around details like contract values, termination dates and requirements, and more.
As noted previously, one of the biggest complaints enterprise employees have about their legal department is that they aren’t responsive enough, which can prevent teams like Sales and Marketing from moving faster.
Legal teams utilizing contract management software can significantly decrease the time it takes to respond to requests from other departments. Here are a few examples:
- Contract review — Sales, Marketing, and Procurement often involve the legal team when it comes time to review contracts before signing. When done manually, the contract review process can be time consuming and ultimately cause delays in revenue-generating activities. With a contract management system in place, in-house lawyers can expedite the review process using helpful features like OCR and advanced search functionality to quickly find and navigate to key terms or risky clauses within the agreement.
- Contract signing — Once an agreement is ready for signature, contract management software with e-signature capabilities will streamline the signing process. This can eliminate days of waiting for a physical contract to be signed and sent from one party to the next, and adds a layer of security and transparency through audit logs that capture every action along the way.
- Contract inquiries — When a colleague reaches out looking for details in a contract that was signed months or even years ago, it isn’t always easy to find that document, and the specific information they’re looking for, in a timely manner. But that becomes a simple task with contract management software. By searching for the name of the file or a key term, Legal can quickly pull up the requested information.
Finally, contract management software makes it easy for legal teams to automatically schedule and share custom reports with stakeholders across the organization, ensuring every department has the contract data and insights to make informed decisions. By understanding what different departments and stakeholders care about in terms of contract details and performance, and proactively delivering relevant reports on an ongoing basis, Legal can simultaneously reduce the number of incoming requests and demonstrate their value as a trusted business partner.
For information to help you find the right contract management software that aligns with your specific challenges, download The Buyer’s Guide to Contract Management Software.