Every year, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) recognizes “Value Champions” – in-house counsel who have “utilized value-focused management practices to cut spending, improve predictability and achieve better outcomes.” One of the criteria is reducing legal spending by at least 25%. These money-saving innovations often involve technology. So what can you, as a leader in your organization, learn from these champions? How can In-House Counsel use technology to save companies money?
Veta T. Richardson, president and CEO of of the ACC, said:
We were especially impressed by the way these inside and outside counsel partnerships collaborated on technology-based solutions to clarify processes, promote knowledge sharing across the business and shorten the time needed to resolve legal questions.
4 In-House Value Champions to Learn From
Here are four 2016 winners that show how in-house counsel can save companies money and time, while increasing lawyers’ job satisfaction.
AXALTA COATING SYSTEMS: The procurement department now processes 62% of contracts – more than 500 annually — without needing legal help, and is heading toward meeting a goal of 80%. Here’s how they did it:
The law department, with help from an outside law firm, created a cohesive suite of 13 new templates, each tailored to reflect Axalta’s distinctive commercial practices, and customized for local language, practice, and legal requirements. Each template is paired with a playbook that explains the circumstances for using each form, how to use it, and how to use the playbook in negotiations….
Spending for contract review by outside counsel dropped 80% and average legal review time has been cut in half.
MICROSOFT: The company was already using a legal process outsourcer for repetitive, lower-risk contract review. It expanded the managed service model to include two outside law firms, working together:
To ensure alignment, [outside] lawyers were trained on Microsoft law department templates, and playbooks were created or updated. As team members learned about the quality of Microsoft’s templates and fallback options, they worked to improve the playbooks.
Outsourcing routine contract work also improved work satisfaction for Microsoft’s in-house lawyers:
One of [the assistant general counsel’s] primary goals in creating the project was to ensure that her internal team does only the most critical work, using their top-level skills. In addition to increased ROI, she is seeing increased workplace satisfaction as attorneys handle more strategic work and engage on other types of contracts that provide greater value to Microsoft.
RED ROBIN: The company’s Chief Legal Officer wanted all contracts to be reviewed by Legal, while seeking to improve the process.
In-house and outside lawyers, working together, created “a contract playbook and a clause library that gave clear guidance on good, better, and best contract terms.”
The company built a contract management system that “automates various aspects of the contract intake, review, and approval process; it tracks status, monitors key provisions and deadlines, and captures a variety of metrics.”
STAPLES AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND: The company sought to raise the “legal IQ” across the organization and enable more business unit discretion and self-service: “The sales team was educated and empowered on a range of topics such as contract law, nondisclosure agreements, workplace rights and wrongs, ethics, and competition law.”
As a result,
the legal department saw its workload in low-risk transactional services decline by over 40 percent, which allowed them to focus that energy on higher-value work. They even codified risk management, creating a checklist that identifies the high-risk provisions in a contract and an easily understandable framework for the sales team to follow.
What can in-house counsel learn from these Value Champions? Here are the key takeaways.
It shouldn’t be necessary to reinvent the wheel every time someone creates, or reviews, a contract. Contracts of the same type (for example, NDAs) have much more in common than they have differences.
Standardizing terms, and then identifying and focusing on terms that vary from standard, saves time and money.
Playbooks can be used in conjunction with templates to speed up the negotiation process.
As we discussed in this recent blog,
When you’re negotiating similar contracts on a regular basis, it helps a lot if you think through what you’re willing to offer and what risks you’re willing to take.
A playbook for each contract type can include a chart with samples of each clause or term and the company’s preferred, fallback, and bottom-line positions.
Many Value Champions empower non-lawyers in sales, procurement, and other departments to meet their own basic legal needs. This lets the legal department concentrate on more complex, higher-value work.
As a result, deals get done faster and there’s less need for expensive outside counsel services.
Knowledge management and process management tools make it possible to manage the legal process more efficiently.
Corporate legal departments often use tools like:
- Sharepoint, for project management
- TeamConnect, for legal department management
- Midaxo, for M&A process management
- Anaqua, for intellectual asset management
One of the newer technologies used by In-House Counsel is the LawGeex solution.
As in-house lawyer Mary Redzic recently reported in her Disrupt Legal blog, LawGeex is
helping In-House Counsels (myself included) and legal teams dramatically speed up their turnaround times for contract reviews, freeing up their time to focus on the other more important matters, helping their companies love their legal departments.
For corporate clients like Deloitte and Brandwatch, LawGeex develops custom solutions based on their own standards and definitions of acceptable risks. In a way, the templates and playbooks become integrated into a technology that learns as the business develops, based on the In-House Counsel-set parameters. This gives the legal department full control while at the same time giving other departments’ greater flexibility.
How to Become a Champion for Your Business
It’s important to learn from companies and In-House Counsel who have been able to create efficiencies within their departments and between other parts of the business, save money and improve job satisfaction.
Creating templates and playbooks, and empowering other departments to have more autonomy, are award-winning examples of how In-House Counsel have improved their companies from the inside.
Technology provides the tools to accomplish these goals, so keeping up to date with new legal technologies is critical to becoming a leader in your organization and industry. It could even make you the next Value Champion!