Tales of LegalTech Adoption: Ashlee Best, Asana

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In a series of monthly interviews, LawGeex speaks to top In-House Legal leaders adopting legal technology to enhance productivity.

Here we talk to Ashlee Best, Legal Operations Manager, Asana

Asana and productivity
Asana, is a the productivity and collaboration service which is one of the biggest names in tech. It is founded by Dustin Moskovitz, a cofounder of Facebook, and ex-Google-and-Facebook engineer Justin Rosenstein. The company has raised $168 million from investors – including from Generation Investment Management, backed by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. More than 30,000 teams use Asana which is reportedly valued at $900 million. 
How is your in-house legal team organized? 

Our legal team is split between legal and legal operations leaders.

How does legal fit into the mission of the company as a whole?

Asana’s mission is about helping humanity thrive by enabling teams to work together effortlessly. The legal department is adopting this mission and our focus is just to create frictionless processes that enable our revenue teams to just do what they do best.

“Our focus is just to create frictionless processes that enable our revenue teams to just do what they do best.”

We have to take a pragmatic approach to risk given that we are part of a high-growth company. I have seen and worked with some legal teams where they have a really buttoned-up lawyer that wants to just negotiate the hell out of an NDA and you wonder if that is the best use of time. We are very realistic about the big rocks and where to dig in.

 

Which legal technology or software do you use day to day?

Asana is an amazing platform. We use it every day for legal intake, contract negotiation, status and work management. The platform has a way to have a hit list of projects on your navigation pane on the side. We have set up a legal request inbox so to speak, and we explain in Asana ‘this is how to use this project, this is the information we need to be completed, please attach any contracts you want us to review’.

Asana screenshot

It’s wonderful because it’s like three different kinds of systems in one and we have our intake or ticketing system. We have a way to communicate with our clients via commenting and messaging. Then it has an additional Wiki experience where we can post best practices. We are teaching everybody that legal is not here to block you, we are just here to make sure you don’t do anything dumb.

“We are teaching everybody that legal is not here to block you, we are just here to make sure you don’t do anything dumb..”

I have shown it to colleagues at various get-togethers and other people in legal ops when I say I do not work in email anymore and it just stops them in their tracks.

We also leverage Adobe EchoSign for eSignature and Dropbox for contract storage and searching.

What problems and pain points are you trying to solve with tech adoption?

Asana is in hyper-growth, and we’re replacing manual processes with self-service and automation so we can scale legal globally.

“Now, we want to go after the larger enterprise deals, requiring contract management workflow.”

Our most likely technology wins this year will be focused on innovating the contract experience at Asana. Asana has been pretty much word of mouth. We have been relying on people’s good experience with our platform to tell others. Now, we want to go after the larger enterprise deals, requiring contract management workflow.

We are just trying to put in some processes to help them get their deals done, things like contract management where they can download our most current version of agreements, send it for signature, hopefully it gets signed automatically with no legal person involved. We have already created a playbook that lets our sales reps make changes to contracts without legal. Then if they still cannot get the contract signed, it comes into the legal team via our Asana inbox project.

What is the process for making decisions on a new software or technology?

Our company makes technology decisions based on ease of deployment. We do not partner with vendors with long implementation timelines. We also collaborate heavily with IT and Security to ensure no “shadow IT” develops and all of our legal vendors adhere to standard security protocols.

Is it important to have legal operations in place at a company?

If you do not have legal operations in place, what I have seen is you just get technology just for technology’s sake. Here, and in my previous role in Legal Operations at Dropbox, it was essential to figure out how to bring value to all the investments made.

What advice would you give to other legal counsel looking at new tech?

A few things come to mind. First, make sure everyone is clear about the problem being solved. Too many of us think software is a silver bullet and do not address poor processes. Take a moment to understand the “As Is”, then create a “To Be”.

Second, do research! The CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) is my go-to resource. It would be hard to imagine a situation someone at CLOC has not encountered. This professional network is a great resource.

Asana famously provides training  encouraging employees being ‘mindful’. How does that play out in the legal department?

The Asana values

When things are going well it is easy to smile and joke, but we are coming out of GDPR for instance and just all the work that needed to be done to be ready for the deadline and all the work we are continuing to do is stressful. What I like about Asana is everybody goes through “conscious leadership” training. I have never seen such an investment in this type of practice but it is really trying to bring self-awareness to every moment. This applies to every interaction you have with a colleague, a prospect, or a vendor who is coming in to water our plants. It is really asking yourself ‘how am I feeling right now?’ am I being open and curious?

From the top Dustin (Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook and Asana) and JR (Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana) want everybody to be learning from this open and curious place. It’s okay to be upset or anxious or fearful but what are you here to learn? It is a different way to interact with people in conflicts. I have found that sometimes, someone is not understanding what I mean, but once you go through this training, you think to yourself maybe I just need to be quiet and sit with this for a minute. Not everything needs to be acted on right away. No-one is going to die if this contract is not signed today.

Is it a better or worse time to be working in a legal department?

Depends on how you like to work. If you like to tinker and innovate, legal operations is very exciting. There’s an opportunity to define and lead this role globally.

Asana is one of the legal technology tools featured in our FREE Legal Technology Buyer’s Guide for In-House Counsel.

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