Hatch is a global engineering consulting firm with 9,000 professionals working in metals, energy, infrastructure, digital, and investments. The legal team has nine lawyers around the world reporting to an Ontario-based general counsel. In 2015-2016, Hatch initiated a global transformation project to meet dynamic market conditions and to deliver positive change for Hatch’s clients. Leveraging a corporate mandate for positive change and driven by the corporate mantra of “innovating in all that we do,” the four-person Australia-Asia legal team set out to respond to the changing needs of their internal clients while staying on top of the workload. That workload includes advising on a diverse range of matters including major project agreements, mergers and acquisitions, employment law, technology licenses, and corporate governance.
They were well positioned to tackle the challenge, says Kim Cavallaro, Legal Counsel and Company Secretary for AUA: “We had the ability to gauge the business and were given a lot of autonomy. We didn’t want to be a bottleneck, so we sought to empower our clients by giving them access to information and empowering them to self-service for routine legal issues.”
The team embraced design thinking to guide their process. Design thinking is a replicable, structured framework to creatively solve problems tailored to the user. A legal department that describes itself variously as “complementary,” “collaborative,” “thoughtful,” “happy,” and “supportive,” Hatch’s AUA team was receptive and ready for design thinking. Realizing that they needed technical help, they brought in co-Champ Lexvoco to help build the information sharing platform known internally as the CAG & Legal Services SharePoint Site; the acronym “CAG” standing for Client Agreements Group, which reflects the underlying mission of the legal group to facilitate winning work with Hatch’s clients. Lexvoco is a “NewLaw” firm that assists their in-house clients through secondments, legal operations, technology, and legal advice. The overall goal: to make contracts and legal resources more accessible.
“Law is so complex in some of the concepts we’re trying to convey,” Cavallaro says. The “Eureka!” moment came when the team realized that legal resources could be mapped to Hatch’s engagement lifecycle. They are organized and stored on the SharePoint site according to the lifecycle stage they support. By thinking from users’ perspective, legal information and resources became intuitively accessible. For example, confidentiality agreement forms are located in the “Winning Work” phase, while report-writing guides are located in “Execution.”
Business leads can respond quickly to external clients on corporate information requests and facilitate timely contract negotiations. Contract templates were redesigned so matter-specific information is completed in an upfront schedule, while terms and conditions stand alone. A clear, consistent design that represents process and progress visually appeals to the engineering audience and helped to get their buy-in.
Communication and training were key change management techniques. For example, the legal team revamped its internal newsletter to use graphics and diagrams to explain legal concepts; content in the emails link directly to the platform. The team offered several targeted training sessions within the AUA region, supplemented with five-minute training videos also developed by the team.
The legal team consulted closely with Hatch’s internal IT professionals as well as the company’s project delivery group. “The approach we take in legal operations is to work very closely with the client’s IT group to leverage existing systems,” explains Jemima Harris, principal at Lexvoco. SharePoint was chosen as the platform for the new site because it had just been rolled out companywide the year before.
The site has received more than 25,000 visits thus far, and the project has increased efficiency within the legal department. Turnaround times for such documents as insurance certificates and reviews of terms and conditions have dropped from as much as a week to same-day responses. Routine requests have dropped off by about two-thirds, and internal clients “now are coming to us with informed questions,” says Frances Eardley, Legal Counsel at Hatch. “We also have more time to devote to value-adding work.”
“Focusing on strategic questions has been good for our own job satisfaction as well,” says Cavallaro. “The project has elevated the legal department’s standing within the company.”
Hatch Team Photo. L to R - Jemima Harris, Caroline McPherson,
Kim Cavallaro, Frances Eardley