Following in the footsteps of the CLOC US Institute, CLOC Australia sought to make Legal Operations the center of attention in the APAC region as well.
Their goal? To connect forward thinking, creative people who can learn from each other and grow their Legal Operations together.
The result of moving this conference to another market? A resounding success.
“In sum, the event was a resounding success. It demonstrated that the Asia-Pacific ecosystem – including corporate legal executives, law firms, and technology providers – are hungry to drive positive change in their market, and excited to be a part of what truly is now a global movement,” Mike Haven, Head of Legal Operations at Gap Inc., writes.
I couldn’t agree more. What a great event to attend. The positivity in the room was electric, and everyone there seemed eager to learn. And learn we did.
With a powerful curriculum designed to spur Legal Operations practitioners towards driving digital transformation, I couldn’t help but soak up the wealth of insights from the rich lineup of speakers. Now I can’t help but share them with you.
Without further ado, here are my three primary takeaways from attending CLOC Australia…
Takeaway 1 – Collaboration is Key
One of the most exciting things I noticed about CLOC Australia was a great enthusiasm among attendees to come together, share and learn. I could tell everyone truly wanted to work with each other, to share their knowledge and insights, and to learn best practices and tips for improvement from one another.
“Business competition down under is fierce. Risk must be mitigated and costs prudently contained, yet General Counsel face increasing pressure to find new and improved ways to enable the business. Still, as we have seen in other regions of the globe, traditions, customs and norms can make transformation a daunting challenge,” Haven says.
Which means Legal Operations professionals need to band together now more than ever. A message that became apparent at this year’s event.
As CLOC put it, the attendees wanted to:
- Learn from other CLOC members to make faster progress on their own initiatives and to avoid mistakes others have already made.
- Learn from key experts – and each other – how to improve their legal operations function, the legal department, and ultimately the entire business.
- Learn how to drive meaningful, transformative change from within Legal.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much,” as Helen Keller once said.
It’s a saying that seems to prove true in both life and Legal Ops.
Takeaway 2 – Where to Start with Legal Operations
The key message I took away from the presentations on growing Legal Operations was that you should start with a few “quick wins.” In their presentation on going from “Zero to Hero,” Steven Harmon (Cisco), Mike Haven (Gap) and Anna Kolovsky (AMP) recommended the following three “quick wins” for growing legal operations teams:
- Workflow Automation
- Invoice Review
- E-signatures and Instant NDAs
As Connie Brenton mentioned in her presentation on technology, Legal Operations is a team sport. This means that Legal should implement tools to power collaboration and enable them to not only get closer to the business, but to drive value for the business as a whole.
The quickest-win for powering this collaboration? Workflow automation software.
“This technology solution solves complex problems between multidisciplinary teams in an easy way,” Brenton says in her recent webinar.
Not only can workflow automation make interactions with enterprise processes more enjoyable by removing the pain of the mundane, Brenton mentions, it also ensures that legal best practices are embedded in each process to improve results.
“Adopting workflow automation got us closer to our internal corporate partners, so we understood their processes and their pain points. It created so much efficiency so quickly that Legal Ops looked like real innovators,”Brenton says.
While there are many use cases for workflow automation, both within and outside Legal, here are just a few processes this software can automate and improve:
- Instant NDAs (this was mentioned several times)
- Firm, matter and timekeeper onboarding
- Rate reviews
- Settlements processing
- Records consistency
The true key to starting with workflow automation though, according to Brenton?
Just start! Identify the most high volume, low value processes and those are frequently your best first targets for workflow automation.
Invoice review is another “quick-win” for Legal Operations of any size. Without a standardized, automated process for invoice review, the results could be disastrous, including:
- Overlooked, unpaid, or worse, overpaid invoices
- Unclear or unenforced invoice terms
- Invoices routed to the wrong person or department
- Incorrect or missing details
- Unexplained fees
- Hours of costly attorney time wasted on invoice review and correction
The real impact of the manual errors caused by manual invoice processes however? The increased costs can really hit your company where it hurts.
Yet when well-implemented, as Mike Haven of Gap demonstrated at CLOC Australia, an automated invoice review can lead to improved compliance with billing requirements, write-downs for both the internal department and outside firms, and significantly speed the process of invoice reviews.
Some other ways Gap leverages the power of invoice review technology? They use the data it provides to:
- Determine law firm selection and evaluation
- Fine-tune their billing requirements
- Hold their outside firms accountable
This technology removes the need for attorneys to take the first pass at an invoice and turns this process from a costly, high-touch process within Legal to a low-cost, low-touch process. It also ensures compliance with policies and flags any potential issues needing legal review.
E-Signatures and Instant NDAs
One “quick-win” nearly all the key speakers at CLOC Australia referenced was the power of instant NDAs. In fact, both Connie Brenton and Mick Sheehy, who is the Chair of CLOC Australia and General Counsel at Telstra, agreed – instant NDAs are something every burgeoning Legal Ops department should start with.
Their solution of choice? Mitratech’s TAP Workflow Automation – a solution they featured heavily throughout their talks.
Gap and AMP also discussed the importance of instant NDAs, citing the following benefits:
- No more need for Legal to approve standard NDAs
- Pre-approved NDAs come pre-signed by the GC
- Standardized forms reduce the pain of time-consuming form creation
- Deals move faster so the business can move faster too
That’s how NetApp started improving their processes too. Through combining instant NDAs with e-signature.
Prior to using instant NDAs, the turnaround time for a single NDA was 3-5 days, though sometimes as many as 30 days. As a result, Legal was forced to focus resources on low value, low risk agreements.
The problem? This was slowing down the business considerably.
By implementing an automated NDA solution however, NetApp increased the speed of their NDAs by a whopping 350%.
In just a short time, NetApp transformed this time-consuming process into a process that handled 85% of NDAs, meaning that little involvement was required from Legal and Legal could now focus on higher value, higher risk work.
In the span of just five years, NetApp saved over 101 years of turnaround time. When you consider the average attorney salary, that’s quite a significant amount of cost savings.
Listening to these presentations and the success of the experts who have pioneered this global industry, I can’t help but marvel at just how much smaller Legal Operations teams with restricted budgets can still accomplish – if they have the right technology to leverage.
Takeaway 3 – Legal Operations, a Department of One
Being part of a small to mid-size company in Legal Operations can sometimes mean you’re the lone wolf in a department of one. Surrounded by attorneys and other members of Legal, this can feel a little isolating at times.
Not only do some of the lawyers look down on your efforts to introduce change and drive digital transformation, but they’re also not likely to provide great sources of information for how you can improve Legal Operations, streamline processes and drive increased value and efficiency.
After all, their job is the law, not how the business side of the law gets handled on a daily business. That task falls to you instead.
But be brave and take heart, friends, CLOC Australia has now stepped in to help provide the support you need. The true beauty of this conference, in my opinion, is the ability to connect with like-minded individuals so you can continue to grow and build Legal Operations beyond a department of one (or just a few).
Many people at the conference took heart hearing from Mary O’Carroll, Head of Legal Operations, Technology and Strategy at Google, who talked about how she used to be in these smaller businesses’ shoes. After all, she was once a department of one, but she now leads over 400.
Connie Brenton, Christine Coats from Oracle and Steve Harmon at Cisco all got their start the same way, with very limited resources.
The key takeaway here? If you start with the quick wins, prove their business impact and drive rapid value from Legal Operations, your business will start to take note. Chances are, you won’t remain a department of one for long.
In fact, it was encouraging to hear just how many of the leading ladies and gentlemen in Legal Ops started that same way – as a department of one. And comforting to know you’re not alone – not really.
Looking for more? Check out these additional resources for Legal Ops: