In a series of monthly interviews, LawGeex speaks to law departments adopting legal technology to enhance productivity.
Here, we speak to Aaron Van Nice, Director, Legal Operations, Baxter Healthcare
How is your in-house legal team organized?
We have about 145 people globally in the legal department, about 75 attorneys, two-thirds of which are in the U.S. The IP team is the largest team in the legal department. We have a lot of IP across the globe but we also have other major functions including litigation, compliance, and privacy.
Does the mission of the legal team align with the company as a whole?
We definitely follow in line with the strategic goals, objective and mission of Baxter. We are one team, and we are always looking to work smartly and always focus on the highest value work we can. This may be seeking to focus on our largest customers, business development or IP that helps protect our products.
“We are one team, and we are always looking to work smartly and always focus on the highest value work we can”
What are the biggest challenges you and your team face in-house?
Right now, there is a lot of change because of global regulations particularly surrounding privacy and security. Then there is the day-to-day challenge of expanding both our products and markets, and the legal department staying on top of that.
What problems and pain points were you trying to solve with tech adoption?
We are focusing on probably three areas. Firstly, better use of the data that we have so whether it is billing dashboards or getting data out or altering our systems so we can use the data better. Secondly, automation, involving putting tools in place that are either self-service or semi-self-service. In this way, folks can do things without having to rely on legal resources, for instance, creating a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA). Thirdly the emerging risks, for instance privacy, and making sure we have the proper tools in place to manage.
What legal technologies do you use?
We have had things like core matter management, eBilling and document management in place for 10 or 11 years
For matter management and eBilling we use Mitratech TeamConnect, and for document management we use iManage. For IP management we use a company called Patrix For our approval workflows, compliance and contract automation we are using a tool called Onit with DocuSign.
What is the process for making decisions on a new software or technology?
We are definitely moving in a direction of being cloud-based (although our core applications of TeamConnect and iManage are not cloud-based right now). Moving forward, any new application I think about is likely to be cloud. Secondly, the cost has to be in line with what our expectations are. Thirdly, ease of implementation, meaning how configurable is the tool? How easy is it to add a field, or change a workflow?
Then, the end user experience. Is it easy to figure out? Most people do not rely on some sort of manual to get their jobs done, they just need to be able to figure it out right away. I need technology that is user-friendly. Then finally, its ability to report data. You have to be able to get information easily out of the tool that can be used.
“Most people do not rely on some sort of manual to get their jobs done, they just need to be able to figure it out right away”
What results have you seen?
Before we had a CDA automation tool in place, we used to have a whole approval process around issuing these agreements. That process generally took about three to four weeks. Using Onit to automate the contract creation, sent out automatically through DocuSign, we cut that time down so today 70% of such agreements are completed within 2 days. The quickest one we have had done is 8 minutes. It’s been a game changer when it comes to the process and the visibility.
Before we had contract automation the process generally took about three to four weeks. Now, the quickest one we have had done is 8 minutes.
What advice would you give to other legal counsel looking at new tech?
A lot of times people get sold on what the technology companies tell you it can do, rather than focusing on the problems you are trying to solve in your department. You always need to spend time on what your pain points are, understanding the critical parts of your own organization, and problem solve from that point of view. I think a lot of times people see a new technology and say wow wouldn’t it be great if we had that without figuring out how it is going to solve their problem.
Did the use of more automation or technology lead to a reduction in staff?
It gets back to our mantra on focusing on the highest value. You are putting these tools in place to cut out the bottom 20-30% of work so that people are focused on the important stuff. We are already a very lean team at Baxter. We are trying to find ways for all of us to focus on the more important things, putting tools in place, and driving a standardized process. It is allowing us to be better at what we are doing.
Is it helpful to have legal operations in place when adopting technology?
I think it is critical to bring that project management approach to projects. Often people just want a solution in place, rather than thinking about the 10 steps that are actually going to get it done. How are you going to facilitate it with IT or finance? How do you then implement the change among the folks who are going to be impacted – for example instead of calling your attorney you are now going to fill out a form. There are all sorts of things that we have figured out how to do, and which can lend themselves to making that project be successful.
“Legal operations can peel back the onion three or four layers and figure out where the real pain points are and then try and help them figure out the solution”
The other point is problem-solving. Legal operations bring in that consulting-type approach. Legal operations can peel back the onion three or four layers and figure out where the real pain points are and then try and help them figure out the solution. Legal operations are uniquely positioned between IT and the legal department to bridge gaps of finding the right types of tools and solutions and being able to talk the language of both departments.
Is it a better or worse time to be working in a legal department?
I think we are in exciting times. There are lots of different things going on right now, with alternative service providers and law firms thinking about doing work differently and legal finally looking at how we engage law firms differently, not to mention just how the regulation and the legal space is evolving. Technology is playing a major part in all of these exciting opportunities.
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