There’s a not-so-obvious way to make your legal department more visible and valued in your organization — at least until you hear it. Then it’s plain to see.
Improve your legal department’s reputation.
Consider how executives, department leaders, and employees feel about your legal department. Do they view it as a critical business partner? When these individuals trust and respect your legal team:
- They consistently seek and confidently follow your team’s legal advice, guidance, and decisions.
- You help the company avoid costly litigation or regulatory penalties as lawyers spot and prevent potential legal issues through closer collaborations with other business functions.
- You receive resources such as funding, personnel, and technology to effectively pursue the legal department’s mission.
- Legal professionals develop a sense of pride and purpose, which leads to greater job satisfaction and retention.
If you’re not quite there yet, don’t worry. Here’s how you can cultivate trust and respect to improve your legal department’s reputation and achieve the goals above.
Find Ways To Be Proactive
Because proactive legal departments look out for the organization’s best interests, they often prevent costly disasters. There’s nothing like saving hundreds of thousands of dollars to show company leaders you’re in their corner. Ways to be proactive include:
- Conduct regular legal audits. You know what they say about an ounce of prevention. Regularly review contracts, policies, and procedures to mitigate areas of risk before they lead to legal disputes or regulatory penalties. This is how you obtain a pound of cure.
- Train and educate. Teach colleagues and employees about the legal issues specific to their roles. For example, IT teams must know about data privacy laws to help manage data compliantly. Anti-discrimination education helps HR leaders navigate and prevent discrimination claims. Knowledge is power when you share it far and wide.
- Implement strategic policies and procedures. Provide guidance to address legal risks and instruct employees on complying with applicable laws and regulations. For example, create a document retention policy that prevents the permanent loss of essential documents. Or, establish a procedure for employees to report potential discrimination and harassment so your team take appropriate action quickly.
- Embed compliance into everyday work. Using legal technology, you can embed legal guidance into daily automated workflows — set triggers that automatically escalate legal issues to the appropriate lawyer for resolution. This is one way the transformational power of legal technology can help you be more effective and compliant.
Strengthen Confidence In Your Department
Executives, colleagues, and employees may assume lawyers are too busy to help them. They may fear their legal matters will get lost or receive an automatic “No” stamp. To prevent such concerns:
- Respond to every request for assistance. To do so efficiently, optimize your legal intake workflow to digitally track every request, automatically respond to inquiries, and reroute irrelevant tasks.
- Use technology to ensure the legal team follows through on all commitments and delivers automatic status updates to keep all stakeholders informed.
- Use clear and concise language in writing and in person. Avoid legal jargon and explain complex legal concepts in terms nonlawyers understand.
Foster Relationships Across The Company
Legal teams can’t provide value as isolated groups. Lawyers must be active in the business, working with others to identify and solve problems and anticipate needs.
Coworkers and employees will be more likely to ask for help when they trust that your lawyers are quick and helpful. But someday, you may find they call less often because you’ve preemptively solved many potential problems.
That’s when you’ll know you’ve built the two-way street needed to boost your legal department’s reputation in the organization.
What is your legal department’s reputation in your organization?
Are you already taking steps to be proactive?
What else can you do to improve your legal department’s reputation?
Olga V. Mack is the VP at LexisNexis and CEO of Parley Pro, a next-generation contract management company that has pioneered online negotiation technology. Olga embraces legal innovation and had dedicated her career to improving and shaping the future of law. She is convinced that the legal profession will emerge even stronger, more resilient, and more inclusive than before by embracing technology. Olga is also an award-winning general counsel, operations professional, startup advisor, public speaker, adjunct professor, and entrepreneur. She founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to participate on corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. She authored Get on Board: Earning Your Ticket to a Corporate Board Seat, Fundamentals of Smart Contract Security, and Blockchain Value: Transforming Business Models, Society, and Communities. She is working on Visual IQ for Lawyers, her next book (ABA 2023). You can follow Olga on Twitter @olgavmack.