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Implementing an Innovative Legal Operations Function at Enstar Legal  

Implementing a legal operations program from scratch is quite the undertaking. For Enstar’s Legal department, it was important to not only positively impact and serve staff, but to also solidify the team’s role as a value-driven department and strategic partner to the business. To that end, the team, led by General Counsel Audrey Bowen Taranto, knew it had to prioritize growing this capability, as well as focusing efforts on collaboration, alignment, and innovation. One of the first things Taranto did was engage consulting firm UpLevel Ops to learn more about legal operations and assess Enstar’s current processes and technologies.  

“We wanted to elevate and empower our legal team, so we engaged UpLevel to do a department-wide review of our operations,” explains Taranto. “UpLevel worked with us during this assessment process to build a roadmap, and one of the key findings was the need to centralize our operations and hire someone senior to manage this function.” Due to Covid, Enstar Legal didn’t hire a manager right away, opting to outsource and work with the firm until they were able to do so. “Although we now manage the legal ops project initiatives ourselves, UpLevel continues to provide support and knowledge.”  

Designing the function and introducing Enny, the chatbot  

With the information and support provided by UpLevel, Enstar went about designing a legal ops function which strategically aligned priorities and programs with existing enterprise technology; promoted cross-functional collaboration; and introduced new technology. Taranto focused the team’s efforts on business-supporting initiatives and projects that were achievable, timesaving, and which would continuously create value for the company.  

“We really wanted to address things that were achievable and that, once implemented, would yield tangible benefits,” says Taranto. One of those things is the chatbot the team and Enstar’s in-house IT innovation group created using data stored in the company’s third-party cloud-based subsidiary entity management platform. According to the GC, her team is most proud of using Microsoft technology already in use by the department to create the chatbot, which answers questions about Enstar’s many group entities that previously inundated Enstar lawyers’ email inboxes. The chatbot, named Enny, provides users with basic entity information such as officer and director names, authorized signatory lists, jurisdiction of incorporation and license, and organizational documents.  

Creating the chatbot is an example of a “small” solution that resulted in a big time save for the legal department. The win, including saving an estimated 500 hours of lawyer time and improving accuracy of responses to frequently asked entity questions, was achievable without a significant investment of resources and money. “While it took an investment of time and energy to build, once we marketed the chatbot and people became aware of it, emails requesting this type of information stopped. The tangible benefit was we no longer needed to spend time on something that was already housed in a database that we couldn’t get people to use on their own before. But once that information was available via a chatbot with a face and name, people went to it.”  

A collaborative and cost-savings approach  

Identifying wins like the chatbot propelled the team’s innovative approach to building its program, as did getting buy-in from staff early on. One way to do that, is to have staff be involved in the development of the tools and processes you plan to deploy. Enstar team members are tasked with keeping data in the subsidiary management system current. This approach not only enabled the chatbot development but allowed staff to contribute almost seamlessly to the creation of a tool to improve their day-to-day. “That was the real innovation, getting the team to buy-in and want to contribute to the success of a cutting-edge solution. And people love to promote it because they’re part of it from start to finish,” explains Taranto.  

That said, getting buy-in to change a process or two is one thing — convincing them to invest in a long-term solution that can include technology, people, or a partnering with an outside firm, is another. Luckily, Enstar Legal had data to support their asks, which in some instances did not include funding. “We often do an ROI analysis and try to project potential savings in terms of lawyer time,” she says.  Further, the team didn’t look to address challenges by merely buying more technology or hiring more people. “We leverage tools we already have. We learned that from UpLevel Ops. The company’s existing productivity platform has so many capabilities, so we didn’t have to buy anything and therefore didn’t have to ‘sell’ its efficacy to our business partners or train anyone to use it.”  

Creating a legal operations program or function is often thought of as a costly endeavor. Taranto emphasizes that this need not be. She recommends first having conversations with current team members about their pain points; and identifying frustrating inefficiencies, or barriers to greater efficiencies, within the department. “Once you’ve had those conversations, you move to ‘how can we solve this, and is there a better process’ — and that doesn’t have to be technology, software, or headcount. In fact, you may be surprised at how little effort and expense is really required to solve costly problems. And once you solve something that way, and see benefits, it opens a pipeline of ideas!”  

A legal ops success story   

Additional improvements achieved by Enstar Legal include implementing a new AI optimized contract review process (with time savings estimated at 1000 hours or five percent of internal spend); continuing to identify ways to deploy chatbots and other types of self-help tools that will free up attorney time to focus on strategy; e-billing system enhancements and an outside counsel management program, which saved the company over seven percent on outside counsel spend and allowed them to collect enough data to begin piloting a value-based pricing program. 

According to Stephanie Corey, CEO and Founder of UpLevel Ops, “It’s not common to work with a client who “gets it” as quickly as Audrey and her team did. While we made the initial recommendations and supported them on this journey, and it is indeed a journey, it’s the team, under Audrey’s leadership, who identified new opportunities to optimize their operations and make their day-to-day that much easier.”  

Taranto attributes the success of the legal operations function to the team at Enstar. “Our team’s energy and desire to buy-in happened during the very early days of us talking about legal ops. We were quickly able to shift perspectives from ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ to realizing that better operations would create more time and space for our impactful legal work. Having the team buy-in, that’s what makes it possible. It really is an investment in the future of how you work and the sustainability of our department.”