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Legal Ops & Business Continuity, Part 2: Handling COVID-19

Emily Bogin |

When COVID-19 struck, there wasn’t time to buy new equipment or implement a new roadmap on the fly. Legal Operations had to use the knowledge and technology they had on hand to keep their business afloat.

Luckily, these professionals were legal process experts with deep knowledge of the organization’s best practices and current technologies.

What were the resources relied upon by Legal Ops teams that were successful at mitigating effects of the crisis?  During our recent Virtual Summit for the Legal Ops community, many Legal Ops experts chimed in on the subject.

1 • Institutional knowledge kept in the institution

Every organization faces turnover and human resource loss when SMEs or employee superheroes leave, taking tribal knowledge with them. Consistent record-keeping that captures all relevant legal matter details, however, addresses subject matter expertise “brain drain.”

Additionally, subject matter expertise can be captured in automated, digital workflows that systematically embed best practices and resources, ensuring that everyone who touches a process follows proven methods and relies entirely on institutionally certified resources.

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“Having all the information that we needed in our (TAP) technology and in our CLM combined together with just a little bit of institutional knowledge from Legal Operations and supporting attorneys – we were able to get people up and running within a week and not really have a business interruption for a big part of our international business.”

Andy Cooper, Legal Operations Manager, IDEXX Laboratories

2 • Existing technology to tackle new problems

Business Continuity in a crisis demands that employees are able to continue doing their work. Leveraging the technologies that are already on hand is the easiest way to do this. Organizations that already have matter and document management systems in place and capture all pertinent details and data in systems with reporting capabilities, not spreadsheets, have the upper hand. Without these systems in place, even virtual information can be almost as difficult to wrangle as paper.

“We’ve had personnel changes, we’ve had people that have gone out sick related to COVID, so we’ve had to do some shifting of gears rapidly, and having these technologies at our disposal, it made it significantly easier to disperse the work or see where our gaps are, see where things are falling off, so we can address them appropriately.”

Andy Cooper, Legal Operations Manager, IDEXX Laboratories

3 • Metrics to inform data-driven decisions

Data may be the greatest untapped resource in a legal department’s possession. By taking large data-sets and revealing their patterns, trends, and associations, legal departments are able to drive keen decision-making. The departments that rely on dashboards and have analytical reporting in place definitely have an advantage during a crisis.

“Anything that they weren’t doing electronically, find a way to make it electronic, otherwise you won’t know who’s doing it, what their workload is, et cetera.”

Mike Russell, Lean Leader – Legal Operations, Trane Technologies

“A tech-enabled Law department of the future will really be using the data to inform decision making in a more meaningful way, whether that’s through existing tools or analytics tools, dashboards, Tableau, Power BI, Click, etc.”

Kevin Clem, Chief Commercial Officer, HBR Consulting

4 • Innovation and iteration of digital transformation

A flexible and centralized tech stack has been important for these Legal Ops teams, because it allows their departments – and by extension, the companies around them – to stay functional during the crisis. Working from home means working with the tools employees have at home: no more filing cabinets, no more disconnected and non-integrated repositories, no more physical mail.

This demanded they innovate using the tools on hand to solve the challenges of having to quickly pivot to a new operational environment, and quickly experiment with fresh approaches and adaptations.

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“Whether it’s e-signatures, scanning, e-billing, getting our last few vendors up on e-billing, set up for ACH payments, you name it — all of those areas have been really critical to business continuity for the law department.”

Katrina Keiffer, Associate Director of Legal Operations, Navistar

In our next post in this series, we’ll consider how Legal Operations teams can drive real change after a crisis like the current pandemic has been stabilized.  What measures can they take to lead the enterprise by driving Business Continuity Transformation that can deliver greater resilience for coping with future disruptions?

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