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How Autonomy Turns You into a Super Efficient Legal Counsel (4/4)

10 Jun 2020
Adrien van den Branden, LL.M.
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This is the final stretch of a four-part series on how to become a super efficient legal counsel. Go read the introduction and the parts on the visibility principle and the productivity principle if you are catching up.

“Autonomy leads to engagement.” ― Daniel H. Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

We empower all our team - not just lawyers - to do their part of the legal work.

Each word is important:

  • Empower: we give our people the liberty and the responsibility to do something
  • Our team: people from the operations, sales, marketing and HR
  • Not just lawyers: we do not just empower people with a legal education
  • Their part: and only their part, we keep ownership on the rest

The rules to make it work for us are:

  • We trust our team. As a legal counsel, it's tempting to take care of everything legal. Most of us have earned their stripes working in a law firm, where doing whatever it takes to serve the client is the norm. Running a successful legal department means giving a dose of autonomy to colleagues who have little to no legal background. Our role as a legal counsel is to educate our staff on legal matters. If we do all the heavy-lifting for our colleagues, they will learn nothing and will become dependent on our continuous presence and availability. Underinvesting in our staff's legal education will come back to bite us in the long run.
  • We are always on standby. We trust our team, but we are always on standby if they need help. Our staff must be comfortable asking questions to the legal team. The only rule is that those questions must be in writing.
  • We maintain a simple intake process. We have an intake process in place to deal with ordinary and extraordinary requests. The process is as simple as sending an email to a dedicated email address or posting a message in a Slack channel. If operations people send an email to us directly (which happens), we forward the email to the dedicated email address, with the requestor in copy, and reminding them about the proccess.
  • We follow our process. For ordinary requests, everyone can create a matter directly in our matter management tool, from a pre-approved template, and start filling the gaps. Each matter has its own sets of checklists, so it's easy for our colleagues to know what to as part of the process.
  • We are not a "forward-me-anything" chatbot 🤖. All of our people have role-based access to our contract management tool. So they are fully equipped to retrieve the right information by themselves. If they have trouble in finding what they need, they are invited to lodge an access request directly in our contract management tool. We never send documents over by email if requested. We just let the requestor know that the information is directly accessible from our contract management tool.
  • We use signatory matrices. we have created an easy-to-use matrix setting out who in the organization is authorized to sign what. The matrix is automatically pulled within the relevant matters.

The key benefits productivity brings us are:

  • We give our staff an edge. Since we invest in the legal education of our staff, we provide them with actionable knowledge that they can reuse for the rest of their private and professional life.
  • We focus on what matters. We focus on creating and adapting our legal knowledge, not on filling out forms.
  • We stop being interrupted. People from the operations, sales, marketing and HR self-serve from our library of templates. We stop getting "where can I find this contract?" requests and it's better working like this for everyone.

Giving our team autonomy on legal matters is rooted in the idea of a modern legal department. We believe that investing in the legal education of our people is best for the legal team and for the company as a whole.

Canyon helps us empower our people, while maintaining strict confidentiality. People from operations, sales, marketing, finance and HR have only access on a need-to-know basis to matters and contracts. They can initiate a matter, self-serve from our library of pre-approved contracts and retrieve key contractual information in seconds.

Providing autonomy to your team is key to any LegalOps journey. How far you go is up to you. But the principle should prevail.

How to get started

My advice is to focus on adopting the visibility and the productivity principles first:

And then work on autonomy, as the icing on the cake!

LegalOps is not only about adopting new technology. It is first and foremost about making a vision come true.

How do you represent your legal function in your wildest dreams?

How would you like your legal team to be considered within your organization?

At Canyon, we help legal teams make the shift towards operational excellence.

If you are eager to find out more, start off the discussion by telling us about the biggest hurdle you see on your LegalOps journey.

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