Lean Legal: Innovate
How many companies and teams can continue working in the exact same way year after year and still win? Most of us must constantly challenge what we do and constantly adapt and innovate to secure competitive advantages. It is an innovate-or-lose business environment, so if you’re not finding ways to adapt and improve, you’ll end up lagging behind your competition. Since legal is inevitably involved in most aspects of the business, this innovative mindset must also exist when it comes to legal in the company. A lack of innovation within legal leads to bottlenecks and blockers which unintentionally limits the business.
The transformation of legal services and processes has barely begun. E-signing and first-generation contract lifecycle management (CLM) tools have initiated a change but aren’t close to being able to support the needs of ambitious businesses. These tools are merely digital alternatives to pieces of the process – they don’t offer a truly new way of working smarter. Slack, for example, is a tool that has changed the way companies communicate – they created a whole new way of communicating to solve the problem, rather than just finding a solution to aggregate all the pieces of disjointed communication into one place. The old ways of working with legal operations, which are often in silos, need to be challenged to adapt and improve from a technology standpoint as well as from a strategic and internal processes standpoint.
That’s why it’s critical to set up a strategy and processes for innovation relating to legal and/or the legal team. Creating a culture of innovation will help you future-proof your team and the overall organization by helping you consistently connect legal initiatives to business objectives shared by the entire organization, and stay ahead of your game and the competition. We’ve placed it as the third step in the Lean Legal framework because you will be able to leverage your innovation much more when you have data to back it up, and you’ve decided on the direction you’re headed from assessing. So let’s talk about how to innovate in Lean Legal!
Testing and experimentation are encouraged and necessary in many parts of business already. Marketers need to experiment with which advertising copy performs best and on which channels to get the best results possible, and the product and development teams need to experiment with new solutions to problems to revolutionize industries. The tech industry created hackathons – huge events all about experimenting and innovating – to bring about innovation in a fun way. Why shouldn’t we do the same with legal in a business?
Experimentation will help the legal team solve any problems or friction that exists within their day-to-day as well as help them potentially solve future problems that they foresee. For example, how can they work better with compliance and changes to regulation and law? This is something legal teams all know will happen, and will most likely become more challenging in the near future, so how can they start to solve it in a smarter way?
Some tips to encourage and guide experimentation within legal,
Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Improve upon it, but if there is already a good process in place for something there isn’t a great reason to spend time perfecting something that already works smoothly.
Have a clear focus. Decide on and clarify the scope and purpose of the experiment and set clear goals. You can and should bring in metrics from the measure step that you would like to see improve by experimenting.
Get buy-in from necessary stakeholders on experimentation, and potentially even discuss a budget if you think it is needed.
Set or follow company guardrails for experimentation. Setting guardrails allows the legal team and the rest of the company as well to experiment in a way that is safe to fail and with an awareness of the limits when experimenting. Your guardrails could take into consideration, for example, the level of risk that is acceptable that we discuss in the assessment step.
Make it fun. Why not do something like a hackathon? Involve your different internal stakeholders like sales and HR. Great ideas often come about when we are in a state of play, so why not add some productive fun to your day?
Encourage non-legal stakeholders to challenge current processes
We say this a lot, but it’s because it’s true and important – legal has an impact on every aspect of the business. This means it has an impact on colleagues outside of the legal team. These are colleagues you should be looking to for feedback on the effectiveness of current processes. Create ways for your colleagues outside of the legal team to surface their friction points and needs so that you can use these as starting points for experimentation and improvement.
If feedback from other teams goes unheard, you may never know if the sales and customer success teams could close more deals faster with automation. Or if the marketing team could be launching new campaigns in new markets quicker (before the competition gets there) or if the HR team could be closing top-tier candidates faster.
Here are a few recommendations for gathering feedback from stakeholders,
Set up easy-to-follow feedback loops like a survey sent out internally to gather feedback and data anonymously. Ask them where they have the most friction when it comes to dealing with legal and why it creates a bottleneck for them.
Include external stakeholders in your validation process while experimenting. Have them test the processes or tools you’re experimenting with to give feedback before you go all in and over-invest just to find out that it’s still cumbersome for them.
Are there any joint KPIs with internal stakeholders that will help increase understanding and transparency, and also increase the incentive for everyone to improve legal operations?
By asking for other teams’ input, the improvements you make in legal processes will have a massive impact on the company because they will impact every aspect of the business.
Update your legal tech stack
Technology is something that can’t be ignored when we talk about innovation. Innovation creates new technologies that improve our lives, and then we can use those same technologies to continue to innovate and improve. Legal tech is something many companies are choosing to invest in. Statista estimates that by 2025 12% of the in-house legal budget will be spent on legal technology, which is a more than 200% increase from budgets in 2020. Why? We guess that a lot of companies do or will realize the value of having a solid legal tech stack. However, as we mentioned earlier, there is a difference between technology that revolutionizes behavior and truly helps you work smarter as an organization, and technology that simply solves one piece of the puzzle. When you’re investing in legal tech, keep this in mind.
If we take a look at PocketLaw’s customer base alone, over 25,000 legal documents were processed, automated, and stored in the platform in 2022. PocketLaw also updated over 30 legal document templates across our 7 markets to ensure compliance for the year 2022 and into the year 2023. It’s always challenging to quantify the hours saved and the increase in efficiency because processes can vary so widely, but if you take the amount of time and effort it takes to complete a contract lifecycle (which you should know after the measure step of Lean Legal) you can create an ROI calculation for your company. The increase in efficiency, time and money saved, and more accessible legal for the rest of the company are why companies are investing in their legal tech, and probably why investments are expected to increase by over 200%.
So think through,
Which tools do your company and legal team use today? Is everyone collaborating in the same system, or working in silos?
Are the tools you’re using helping you to streamline things or are they unintentionally adding increased complexity, and unnecessary friction points?
Experiment with how you can make your tech stack leaner and smarter.
Run experiments with the current tools you’re using for efficiency while testing out a proof of concept with other platforms to see which one increases efficiency and reduces friction.
To wrap up the experiment
You’ve made it to the final step in the Lean Legal framework, but your work isn’t over. Once you’ve implemented some new innovative processes and tools, go back to measure-assess, and then innovate again where it makes sense. All of these steps will help you achieve smart growth – growth that is sustainable, built for long-term success, and scalable. This is how companies will not only win but also thrive going forward.