General Counsel and in-house legal teams typically have to play by a different (and stricter) set of rules than other parts of the organization. But fulfilling their crucial role within the business doesn’t always make legal look like a team player. Instead, they become known as the naysayers, the “no” department, the “fun police.”
The great irony is that legal teams are not standing in the way of business initiatives. In fact, many are eager to play a more strategic, proactive role in the business — but that enthusiasm can quickly turn into frustration by incorrect perceptions and enormous demands on their time and attention.
What can corporate legal teams do to enhance their reputation with their non-legal colleagues and executives, and take their rightful place as a strategic asset to the business?
Today, we’re zooming out to look at the bigger picture and how those benefits (and more) can serve to strengthen legal’s position and perception within the broader organization.
The key to achieving success? Building stronger relationships.
Many of the same features we’ve shared that can be used to enhance collaboration and increase efficiency can also help strengthen business relationships.
If corporate counsel wants better relationships — and a better reputation — outside the department, it’s essential that the team work effectively together and are able to stay in sync. A legal DMS can help teams collaborate over documents and offer real-time messaging that enable team members to connect with colleagues while maintaining a single, secure system of record.
With a united legal team that works together seamlessly, you’ll be better equipped to strengthen relationships across business units.
See how real-time messaging helped unite legal teams at one of the nation’s largest public universities.
Corporate legal teams often find themselves working closely with vendors, external counsel, and other parties outside the business. But instead of treating these relationships as mere transactions, legal can benefit from viewing them as strategic partnerships. And that means delivering a top-notch experience while working together.
A DMS can help by making processes more seamless. For example, secure file sharing makes it easy to collaborate externally, with uncompromising security measures in place. Meanwhile, features like integrated e-signing make the often-arduous process of collecting signatures painless for everyone involved.
It’s all too common for legal departments to become isolated and siloed from the rest of the organization — even in the apps and tools they use. Some of this is for good reason; after all, not every employee should be privy to sensitive information. However, this can make it difficult for legal to work and communicate effectively outside the department.
A DMS that integrates with Microsoft Teams allows legal teams to move seamlessly between the legal-only environment and the rest of the organization. Plus, non-legal business units can benefit from the same collaborative features that external partners do, such as simple and secure file sharing.
One of the primary responsibilities of a legal department is to protect the organization against risk and ensure it stays compliant with all relevant regulations. Poor security and non-compliance expose companies to enormous risk: data breaches, theft, reputation and revenue loss, legal action, and massive fines.
Fortunately, a document management service designed specifically for the legal market can deliver advanced security, built into the platform, which customers can utilize to help achieve their own compliance requirements. Using a legal DMS to fulfill these essential requirements, legal can put the organization in a position of strength — and peace of mind. That’s a pretty big deal for the C-suite.
But that’s not the only way document management can help the legal department shine.
There are many benefits that come when the legal department builds strong relationships throughout the organization — things like happier internal clients, more strategic work, and better business results. And you better believe the executive team will take notice.
Strengthening relationships outside your department can create big-value opportunities for legal and for the entire organization.
Building relationships outside of the legal department can make it easier to get things done and provide clear value to the entire company. Plus, it’s not just that the legal department will be more effective in delivering legal services, but that the business units will have more realistic expectations about what can be done for them and when. (And that’s bound to make everyone happier.)
Getting to know key players across the business can also help legal tailor their services to meet specific needs, preferences, and risk tolerance, which will make it much easier to find the right legal paths for the business.
In the corporate world, the whole goal of bringing legal counsel in-house is to get legal advice “with a deep understanding of the goals, risks, competitive landscape, and nuances of the business.” But siloed legal departments can develop serious blinders that prevent them from understanding the needs of the business.
On the other hand, collaborating closely with other departments enables legal to get a more complete and detailed perspective of the organization. This equips you to avoid unnecessary risk, recognize potential pitfalls, and find alternative paths to success. As a result, legal is able to provide even greater value and create better outcomes for the business.
You can see similar effects as you strengthen relationships with vendors, outside counsel, and other external stakeholders. The more effectively you’re able to collaborate, the better results you’re likely to see.
Better business relationships often lead to more effective and efficient collaboration. For the legal department, those time savings offer more time to focus on strategy. Being proactively involved in strategic business initiatives — rather than just being the company’s crisis hotline — can be another major opportunity for the legal department to showcase their value.
There’s no doubt about it: company executives want their legal departments to be more engaged in the business, to “[think] more strategically about the company and its business goals and objectives while you work,” explains Sterling Miller. And the benefits for legal are huge: “By [being more strategic], you can influence the business beyond just everyday legal issues.”
Stronger relationships, better outcomes, and clearer value all add up to more trust in the legal department. More trust means more opportunities to be involved across the business — not to mention losing that “naysayer” reputation.
When a technology can lead to better business relationships, collaboration, and efficiency, it becomes clear that it is a foundational platform. It’s easy to look at the many features of a DMS and stay focused on how they make your job (and life) easier — but really, the goal isn’t to help you work less, it’s to help you work better.
Or as we like to call it, <span class="kepler-font">Work Inspired</span>.
Alvin Tedjamulia, NetDocuments’ co-founder and Chief Technology Officer says, “Inspiration is the natural urge to be creative, and when you work in an inspired way your job is not just a job. It’s a natural part of yourself.”
But inspiration is hard to come by when you’re buried in administrative tasks, slugging through overly complex processes, and fighting communication battles at every step of a project. In short, you cannot do your best work when your tools turn it into an uphill battle.
The NetDocuments platform was designed to make document and email management an inspired experience for legal professionals, so you can collaborate more effectively, work more efficiently, and deliver greater value across your organization.
Want more tips on improving collaboration with internal clients and external counsel? Download our whitepaper, Naysayers No More: How In-House Legal Professionals are Leveraging Collaborative Work to Say ‘Yes’ More.
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