A big part of in-house legal work involves making sure that the right person gets the right question. In times past, this connection was often handled via email. Unstructured reviews involving multiple stakeholders communicating by email could create backlogs and often engendered miscommunication, inconsistency, and frustration. It could feel more like busywork than the practice of law.
“We had an opportunity to make improvements to a process that affects much of the organization,” says Tiffany Lim, lead consumer products counsel at McAfee. “We have a wide product line that is sold both directly to consumers, but we also sell them to partners. Each product is slightly different and requires a separate review. Using a traditional method of taking requests through email just wasn’t feasible anymore.”
When McAfee was spun back out as a separate company in 2017 after its acquisition by Intel, the new legal department had a blank slate upon which to re-create itself and its processes. With the main objectives of assessing compliance for products and marketing materials and getting them out the door as quickly as possible, the process was ripe for improvement and reinvention. Ron Wills, McAfee’s former head of global business law group and worldwide legal operations at McAfee and currently chief of staff to McAfee’s President and Chief Revenue Officer, reached out to Sam Ensogna and his team at The Scylla Group. Together with Wills, Lim and Katherine Neumon, lead marketing counsel at McAfee, The Scylla Group helped develop a technology solution that enabled McAfee’s in-house lawyers to provide accurate and actionable advice quickly.
They opted for custom development to meet key requirements that included the ability to implement the Responsible/Accountable/Consulted/Informed (RACI) model to allow for:
Automated routing and tailorable backend roles and responsibilities management. The Legal workstream owner establishes assignment routing when they create the questionnaire submitters complete. The routing ensures that the correct reviewers are engaged when answers to specific questions indicate a specific reviewer’s expertise is necessary.
Cross-collaboration between different business stakeholders and multiple Legal advisors
Weigh-in and approval from different Legal specialists, depending on the issues raised by the particular review and custom-generated questionnaire
Real-time visibility and metrics to Legal leadership across all workstreams and system submissions.
The result was Hoot, a web-based platform that has evolved from a simple questionnaire to a dynamic, automated system that guides users down a decision tree and provides pre-programmed answers. But getting that initial questionnaire was crucial to the project’s future evolution and success, says Neumon: “It was a lengthy process to nail down a set of questions that would draw out the relevant information. A key challenge was breaking the questions down into conditional logic via probing questions.”
They captured the questions on Post-It notes and rearranged them on walls before transitioning to mind maps. They also vetted the questions with legal experts in their department and product team members, Lim says.
Keeping user experience at the core, the pair worked with their consultants to design a clean, intuitive interface that captures the entire engagement lifecycle and allows lawyers to provide standard guidance in particular circumstances. It also captures guidance on unique issues that can be used by the attorneys in future reviews and mines exchanges for common questions so they don’t ask, or answer, the same questions repeatedly.
Where the Hoot system is not self-service, it triages, permitting lawyers to devote time to unique, impactful issues. It also facilitates an intermediate level of attention for questions that can be playbooked but not quite programmed. It also allows for staffing flexibility, including the possibility of routing rote elements of reviews to low-cost legal providers for initial review.
Hoot brings all business stakeholders to the table in one platform, which is designed to align with a “RACI” roles-and-responsibilities model. Every stakeholder has visibility into the questions asked and the information provided to date. Users can assign specific questions to specific collaborators via an “Actions Required” pane within the tool; the assigned collaborator is then prompted to provide an explanation documenting how issues are resolved.
Cycle times are down dramatically, say Neumon and Lim: What used to take weeks (and sometimes months) now takes days. Reviews for product updates now average five to seven days, while reviews for new products take less than six weeks. The increased efficiency has freed up attorney time by minimizing administrative work and expanding capacity: the team increased the number of reviews completed annually by three times.
Costs have declined as well—by more than 60 percent. These savings are generated mostly by the minimization of outside counsel fees. In 2017, McAfee spent 100% of the budget allocated for outside counsel support for product and marketing reviews. In 2018, that outside counsel spend dropped to 18 percent within the allocated budget. Best of all, “Hoot has been positive for the view of the legal department within the company. It’s a lot easier for everyone to come together,” says Neumon.