When a tech GC first arrives at an org, they're often greeted with unmitigated chaos. Having a strategic impact on the business feels like a world away. But it can get better! This roadmap shows how tech GCs can progress from chaos, to control, to impact.
Keep reading to find out more 👇
Get oversight of all legal matters
The first step in gaining control over legal matters in your business is to achieve oversight. For established legal teams with some established processes and a foothold in their organisation, this might be a non-issue. For smaller, newer legal teams, this is often a significant challenge. The non-legal teams in the business will already have set processes. They’re used to closing deals, hiring, negotiating, etc. without legal. It can be a major step to move them away from an ad hoc approach to legal towards a more formal process.
But it's essential to build a clear understanding of the types of legal issues that arise in your business and how they're managed. If your sales team are negotiating most of their deals independently and you’ve not yet established any kind of governance or approval process, this isn’t good news.
To achieve oversight, it’s important to install a single platform where all legal matters are raised & tracked. A legal front door. Ideally, this will integrate with the tools your non-legal teams are already familiar with. By installing a legal front door, you can have a clear overview of all active legal matters. This allows you to identify any areas where there may be potential risks or problems and—on the flipside—if there are opportunities for automation or improvement, such as an improved commercial position.
There are many ways to set up a legal front door. One option is to set up a contract lifecycle management system (like Juro or Contractbook). Another option is to use a dedicated matter management system (like LawVu). Unfortunately, these tools often take a long time to procure & install, have many redundant features for early-stage in-house teams, and are usually overkill for teams with <10 lawyers. They're also costly.
The simplest option is to use a low cost, lean tool, such as Airtable. There are great Airtable templates for legal ticketing systems & contract management systems. These templates can be set up in an afternoon and they don’t require tedious back-and-forth with vendors. Often, installing a lean tool such as this makes it easier to make a more significant procurement decision later. And you’ll have the usage data & stories to help you build a business case for pricier software.
Whichever approach you take, it's important to ensure that all relevant members of the team have access to the system and understand how it works. This enables them to easily record new legal matters that arise, and ensures all information is centrally located.
Establish governance of all legal matters
The second step in gaining control is to establish governance. Governance is visibility plus control. There's no point having visibility, if there are no rules in place, or if rules aren't followed. Examples of business-critical rules for non-legal teams include:
- Enabling only certain, senior sales people to use & approve certain contract terms
- Setting clear limits on certain terms (such as notification periods and discount periods)
- Ensuring certain contract terms require approval from the legal team
- Ensuring a consistent, well formatted, up-to-date template is always used for all contracts
- & many more
Playbooks for contract creation, negotiation, and approvals have become essential for high growth tech companies. Deal terms can become chaotic when improperly governed, exposing the business to both commercial & legal risk.
Automate governance & predictable requests
It's possible to govern a vast scope of legal matters, even in a fast growing organisation. Possible, but painful. And it's possible to respond to a high-volume of incoming legal requests from your revenue-generating teams. Again, possible, but painful and time consuming. Deal speed can take a hit at quarter end. And there's little time left for legal to have the kind of strategic impact they could have.
For tech GCs—and the entire legal team—to leverage the unique position they hold in their company, they must reduce the noise of incoming legal requests. Many of these requests are repeatable and predictable.
By automating these previously manual tasks, tech GCs see the following advantages:
- The legal team is no longer seen as a blocker, but instead as an enabler.
- Time is freed up to focus on strategic, needle moving legal work.
- Centralised standards can be easily enforced, ensuring the optimal positions are used to limit commercial and legal exposure.
A new category in legal technology for in-house teams has recently emerged. This category is Playbook Automation (PBA). PBA software performs the tasks previously assigned to legal counsels, especially junior legal counsels. PBA works by enabling the legal team to encode their standards, best practises and know-how into playbooks.
By encoding their know-how into playbooks, tech GCs can offer self-executing responses to non-legal teams. This empowers non-legal teams to self-serve legal support and drive deals independently. The impact this can have on growth is dramatic. By removing legal as a bottleneck, deal speed increases. Further, by building legal & commercial playbooks that scale with the business, tech GCs can ensure the best terms are negotiated. And with intuitive interfaces built from the ground up for non-legal teams, tech GCs minimise the risk of rogue contracting, especially at quarter end.