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Legal Ops & Business Continuity, Part 3: Driving Permanent Change

Emily Bogin |

In the previous two posts in this series, we examined how Legal Operations teams had managed sudden crisis: specifically, the coronavirus pandemic.  But what about future disruptions?

The real change needs to take place after a crisis is stabilized. After patients who have recovered from heart attacks have stabilized, only about 80% change their lifestyle habits in ways that would prevent a future attack. The initial success of the procedure can lull them into a false sense of security, and the prospect of changing one’s diet or exercise routines is often unappealing.

Companies often make the same mistake after a crisis seems to have been handled: they forget that they must prepare and adapt to handle the new reality that the crisis has left behind.

So what are Legal Operations professionals to do once their company announces that it’s back to “business as usual,” when governments allow employees back into the office, or after a vaccine is distributed? What is the new business as usual? Legal Operations can use this opportunity to build on the lessons learned from the crisis and set a foundation for the future. In doing so, they shape that future, rather than simply waiting for the next crisis to arrive.

As Ronald Heifetz points out, “[Leaders] use the turbulence of the present to build on and bring closure to the past. In the process, they change key rules of the game, reshape parts of the organization, and redefine the work people do.”

How, then, can Legal Ops redefine business continuity for the enterprise – driving Business Continuity Transformation™ much as they’ve already fostered digital transformation?  Some of those strategies were outlined at our virtual conference this year, featuring a wide range of Legal Ops industry experts.

By introducing business continuity for processes, not just systems

Data backup has been a must-have for companies since they began using computer systems. Today, companies need to back up not only their data, but also their processes. As companies become extended over time and space and face increasing threats of fast turnover, it is more crucial than ever that the processes and paths that unite people, process, and technology do not depend on the memory of the one or two wizened employees.

Processes, just like data, must be stored so that when a crisis hits they stay up and running just like your backup drive.

“Business continuity is a central theme right now… and not just systems continuity, but functional business continuity.”

Katrina Keiffer, Associate Director of Legal Operations, Navistar Inc.

By forging ahead with what works

When a company experiences a threat to BAU, the new situation often demands that employees and employers alike experiment with new solutions and new ways of thinking about the problem. Not all experiments are successful, but activating this adaptive mindset is the only way to build sustainable, long-term success.

When an experiment works and helps people get their work done more efficiently, or it nurtures long term compliance with a new approach or a best practice? It’s a great opportunity to leverage that community support and grow a success story exponentially. One successful rollout can be the tipping point to digital transformation and ultimately business continuity resilience.

“People have reached out to us when it comes to ThinkSmart and said, how did you do that? Can we learn things? …[COVID-19] has actually accelerated a few projects that were in pipeline for this year.”

Andy Cooper, Legal Operations Manager, IDEXX Laboratories

By investing in flexible tools

Legal Ops will help enterprises transform their continuity planning and execution so they’re prepared for both immediate demands (like COVID-19) and for future disruptions or challenges, including the probable permanent changes to how companies do business after the current crisis has passed.

Teams equipped with the right tools will have the flexibility and agility to lead the enterprise in transforming continuity planning and execution so it can respond quickly to the permanent effects of any crisis, or even be proactive in anticipating its effects.

There are plenty of processes that need to be managed with flexible software solutions that can be configured and reconfigured on the fly as new challenges arise.

We think that the first characteristic of a law department of the future is one that is agile.”

Kevin Clem, Chief Commercial Officer, HBR Consulting

By managing permanently remote workforces

The genie is really out of the bottle: As businesses find remote workforces to be efficient and effective, more employees will continue working remotely after the outbreak has passed. The quality of remote collaboration will be central to future success and demands better platforms and processes.

This means tools that drive collaboration – like web conferencing, collaboration platforms like Slack, or workflow automation and enterprise legal management solutions with baked-in collaboration features – have become key elements of any legal tech stack as in-house legal departments look down the road.

“The quick wins that we see are those workflow type automations or moving spreadsheets to databases: very simple things that create some ability to do reporting and share data remotely…”

Gary Tully, Head of Legal Operations, Gilead Sciences

“Just having… our different agreements and NDAs and contract approvals remote as is in a cloud technology has made the transition to that [WFH] significantly easier.”

Andy Cooper, Legal Operations Manager, IDEXX Laboratories

By replacing paper, once and for all

Paper-based processes are being rendered obsolete, replaced by digitized forms, documents, and processes. For those who didn’t believe “paper is dead,” COVID-19 confirmed it. And the change means that companies will innovate and explore new ways of working, after they decommission their paper shredders and kick old filing cabinets to the curb.

This means paper invoices from law firms are also defunct; e-Billing provides the most effective structure for a legal spend management program that properly manages outside counsel and other third-party billing.

Along those same lines, paper contract execution is also extinct: An integrated enterprise legal management (ELM) and workflow automation solution can digitize the process of contract requests, approvals, and executions, topping it all off with seamless integration of e-signature. Simple repetitive contracts like NDAs can be automated for self-service, relieving a huge amount of strain on the legal department.

On-Demand Webinar: 5 Top Ways to Future-Proof Your Legal Technology Stack

What are the best strategies for preserving your legal technology investment for whatever lies ahead? Learn in this on-demand webinar video featuring top experts.