The relationship between the in-house legal team and other departments is often referred to as separated, and complicated. However, the majority of the business is keen to understand how their knowledge and how can they contribute value across the organisation, but the paths into and out of their department are frequently blocked by a mound of daily legal work.
The in-house legal team’s primary responsibility is to serve as the business’s legal department for that matter, it is important that there is a strong connection and a constant communication flow of the legal function to the rest of the business.
The modern legal department isn’t supposed to be hidden away in a back office where nobody ever sees or hears them anymore. Instead, the goal is to create a team that is actually engaged and collaborates with other departments to reach goals and succeed as a whole.
Here are the dangers of having a less engaged In-house team and some strategies our in-house clients have used to connect with the business more effectively.
The dangers of a compartmentalized, less synergic environment
The in-house legal team operates in a compartmentalised environment where obstacles and little interaction are the norms, and there is a lack of communication of knowledge flowing between departments. This keeps the in-house legal team cut off from the larger business.
“The department of no”, as the legal in-house team often is ladled like, because of its untouchable squad, operates behind closed doors and prevents progress rather than providing practical answers.
Inadequate information supplied through numerous channels, such as emails, different communication platforms, and even verbally, can impair workflow and the prompt settlement of requests. Intake is one example. When legal receives a surprise deadline because of a chaotic intake process, it may have been invited to the conversation too late or in the wrong place.
Additionally, there is a chance that legal work will be lost in a sea of disjointed point solutions, documents, and files, necessitating relationship maintenance when (or if) the request is rediscovered.
Lack of involvement is frequently to blame when the legal department feels out of step with the rest of the company.
A culture of participation
An integrated legal department benefits greatly from being involved with the broader business, both in terms of day-to-day legal operations and organisational culture.
As genuine connections are made with all internal and external stakeholders, from coworkers to the C-suite, the board, and outside counsel, there is more support from the larger organisation for legal decisions. This indicates that talks and debates have a solid base, even during prosperous times and during more trying times.
Additionally, there is a better awareness of what each department in the company performs, which improves knowledge of the best ways to collaborate with them on legal requests and bigger projects that call for the skills of legal.
How can you get there? Being more involved and connected to the company is a terrific place to be.
In order to improve engagement between your team and the rest of the company, we’ve put together some suggestions, beginning with the key component of any engagement: relationships.
- Align with corporate goals
Any relationship can be instantly strengthened by identifying similar objectives.
Engagement is not just about connections and collaboration; it also requires an understanding of the various business activities and the organisational framework in which they operate.
While every department in the company strives for success, there are various goals and approaches to achieving them. This means that legal must make sure that it collaborates with other departments in a way that benefits both parties.
For instance, when is it required for legal to get engaged in a project? When it is too late, legal can only consider the missed opportunity or increased risk. Too early, legal may erect hurdles or be unable to make a positive contribution. If your company has a singular focus on generating more money, be sure to emphasise how your work can contribute to that goal as well. Sticking to your own agenda simply serves to confirm the idea that Legal is apart from the rest of the company.
Making a concerted effort to learn more about a project or a particular department you are regularly associated with can also help you understand business activities better. This could entail physically relocating to a seat in the department, joining the team, attending meetings, and getting a brief glimpse of how things are done.
Education of the business about the function of legal is also necessary. The business might need to be trained on self-serve intake, given the chance to learn more about the contract lifecycle, or given the opportunity to attend courses on the procedures and systems used by the legal function. In order to inform others on how the legal team functions and, more importantly, how what legal does is crucial for each part of the business, the legal team can also host legal 101 seminars and mini-workshops.
Start by meeting and talking with your business colleagues on a regular basis. Make sure you are aware of their precise priorities and that they are aware of any potential limitations and needs. When it comes time to argue for any more resources (talent or technology), this unified understanding will be essential for getting the results you want.
- Assist your business partners in self-serve
There is typically a role for legal to play in helping your commercial teams help themselves, even while no one expects legal to take the lead on hiring, engineering, sales, or support. For instance, one critical area where in-house attorneys can have an impact is contract management. Giving your colleagues the means to handle repetitive contract administration tasks automatically will speed up transaction closing and remove a significant amount of low-value labour from your lawyers’ to-do lists.
Sharing expertise can also be very beneficial. After all, the majority of legal departments frequently find themselves responding to the same queries (such as “How does GDPR affect us?”). You may give the business a clearer perspective into your world and probably decrease the requests directed to Legal by setting up a resource centre where you can publish news, respond to frequently asked questions, and clarify legal processes. (Tip: An excellent place to start is a straightforward shared space like Notion.)
- Construct a personal network & Improve your relationships.
We are all familiar with the image of in-house solicitors: cold, risk-averse, meticulous, deal-killers. But as commercial teams observe their colleagues’ personal and professional traits firsthand, these widespread misunderstandings gradually dissipate. People want to interact with team members that have the proper attitudes, are personable and happy to help and do high-quality work, so it’s not a chore or too much effort!
Even if there might not seem to be any open times on your calendar right now, it’s crucial to make time for team members from various organizations. Listening to sincere personal testimonies is the fastest, most efficient, and most enjoyable approach to learning the procedures, frameworks, and methods guiding day-to-day operations at your organisation. The knowledge and rapport that result will also be great assets when working together on significant projects in the future.
It functions both ways. By being accessible to the company, you provide a window into your methods of operation and the everyday legal tasks you manage. Long-term, this knowledge will help the legal team by easing tension between the departments and enhancing the working environment. Additionally, and maybe more crucially, you can really show off your personality in these sessions.
For legal team members to be involved with the business, strong connections with everyone they encounter are crucial. This includes people they deal with on a daily basis, people they deal with through a colleague or boss, and those they may only deal with occasionally.
- Promote transparency
Relationship building depends on transparency, thus it’s critical to accommodate in-person, remote, and hybrid interactions in a smooth manner. By selecting a legal workplace that allows integrations of your preferred communication tool, like Microsoft Teams, you may communicate in a genuine and true way regardless of where you are.
- Be receptive
Being sensitive and responsive to their needs, particularly with regard to intake, is probably one of the best ways your legal team can develop strong relationships with the larger organisation.
How accessible is your department practically? Is it simple to enter, what happens when someone enters the office, and do they feel welcomed or unwelcome?
Being responsive can mean giving your frequent clients—those who frequently seek legal counsel—more autonomy over their legal work by allowing them to make legal requests via a legal workspace. This helps to triage the intake so the business user is more likely to receive a quicker response since the legal team gets all the information it needs to finish the work. Additionally, business users can be taught to self-serve and do some legal duties on their own, freeing up the legal team’s time to handle more complex and high-level work.
- Effectively interact and communicate
Maintaining healthy relationships fosters a workplace atmosphere where cooperation and communication flow naturally. Choose a legal tech solution that supports the type of collaborative environment you want to foster as a result.
As was already noted, allowing business users to self-serve is a good method to develop more effective, responsive interactions. The ability to collaborate and use everyone’s preferred solutions is another benefit of having the appropriate legal technology.
Think about a legal workspace that aids in combining and streamlining collaboration paths so that it is easy to communicate with internal and external stakeholders, follow changes to documents in real time, and get status updates. This is made possible via integrations with business tools like Salesforce, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Drive, which require fewer clicks and fewer app switches, allowing everyone to work in unison without exerting any additional effort. Additionally, a legal workspace will link organised requests, specifications, and all pertinent workflow touchpoints and documents to the main matter, creating a system of records with the matter serving as the centre of any legal issue.
Use of Legal tech to improve communication
There are many ways a legal workspace integrates engagement into daily business operations, including:
- Offering a knowledge base as a repository for all previous communications and associated content;
- Allowing business users to communicate and collaborate from their preferred integrations;
- And using a system of record that connects all conversations and their outcomes to a single issue/matter.
By offering a centralised work management system of issues, information, documents, collaboration, tasks, and projects, a legal workspace enables you to interact with your legal team and the larger organisation.
Legal Technology can help streamline the flow of requests, and measure how long matters have been sitting there, how quickly you’re responding, and the types of requests coming through.
Want to learn how Matter Management software can help your team communicate and engage more effectively with the legal function and the bigger business?
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