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Process Change: Rethinking Your Legal Department's Structure

    

In today's business landscape, one of the only constants is change. Organizations constantly need to adapt and evolve in order to respond to new market trends and customer demands.

Your organizational structure is one of the most important keys to your company's success, and even minor changes can have a major impact. While you might be reluctant to alter your organizational setup, it's often necessary to do so in order to remain competitive and stay relevant in your industry.

Depending on your corporate structure, your legal department may look very different in terms of size, scope, roles, and competencies. In addition to practicing lawyers, the department may also employ paralegals, contract managers, legal assistants, negotiators, and more.

By offloading work and tasks to these "non-lawyer" members of your team, many organizations' legal departments have undergone, or are in the middle of undergoing, a process change. In doing so, organizations hope to free up space for the legal department to focus only on material items.

Of course, you can't simply pass off any kind of work to your other legal employees: regulations forbid them from giving legal advice or practicing law without a license. Before you can enact these changes, you need to carefully consider which kinds of contract activities are appropriate for these professionals to undertake.

Sample Contract Tasks for Non-Lawyer Professionals

  • Stakeholder ownership: Identifying which stakeholders own which section(s) of the contract without legal review. For example, clauses such as venue, choice of law, force majeure, payment amount and terms, and changes to orders might not require legal review.
  • Stakeholder flexibility: Identifying which elements are flexible without requiring legal review and intervention.
  • Consequences: Identifying which sections of an agreement are of high consequence, and are of a high enough likelihood to require legal review. Examples of these sections might be "force majeure" clauses, auditing, and benchmarking.

The Goals of Legal Department Process Change

  • Reducing time and expenses: By delegating certain contract tasks to other professionals, lawyers can devote their time to more valuable activities for the firm.
  • Reducing time to revenue: Getting more people to look over the contract speeds up the approval process, and therefore your time to revenue.
  • Reducing customer friction: Putting more eyes on a document helps you catch potential issues before they crop up during the contract's execution.
  • Increasing company revenue: Improving your reputation as a dependable contract partner will encourage more clients to work with you.

Building Teams of Non-Legal Contract Professionals

In order to reassign activities from the lawyers in your legal department, you need to build a solid, reliable team of contract professionals.

When building these teams, the traits that you should select for include:

  • Ownership: All team members should take pride in their work and feel accountable for the success of the project.
  • Trust: Team members should trust in each others' competence and expertise and be able to rely on each other for assistance.
  • Communication: Good communication is essential when delegating contract management tasks to your team members. Everyone should feel comfortable asking questions and seeking advice.
  • Transparency: Team members should be kept up-to-date about each other's progress at all times.
  • Technology: You need the right tools and technologies in order for your team members to do their jobs successfully. Dedicated contract management software can help you get a better handle on the process.
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