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The Unisys Legal Department Transformation: A Q&A with the Team   

The legal department at Unisys Corporation set out to transform itself from a cost center into a data-driven partner to the business in spring of 2022. Focusing efforts on innovation and diversity, leadership established a dedicated legal operations team who focused on better leveraging technology to create efficiencies and support the growth of organizational initiatives.  

Here, General Counsel and Chief Administrative Officer Kristen Prohl discusses the challenges faced by the team behind the transformation, including VP, Deputy GC and Global Head of Legal Operations Laura Kibbe and Legal Operations Manager Michelle Straus. She talks about the solutions the team put forth to address them, as well as the significantly improved outcomes that followed, and offers advice to other legal departments facing similar issues; looking to add value.  

The transformation: challenges and solutions  

ACC: What were the core issues facing the Unisys legal department as part of this transformation?  

Kristen Prohl (Unisys Legal Department): First, it’s best to begin by addressing the transformation itself. In May of 2022, the Unisys legal department, at the time under the direction of previous GC Claudius Sokenu, set out to transform itself from a cost center to a data-driven business partner. This shift included reducing outside counsel and other third-party spend, as well as the number of firms and vendors used, improving internal capabilities, and using technology to understand better the needs and opportunities of our team and the business. It’s worth noting, that the transformation was fully endorsed by our executive leadership team, whose support was instrumental throughout the process.  Our evolution to meet the changing needs of our company resulted in greater productivity, efficiencies, and effectiveness — all of which have led to an improvement in client delivery and becoming overall better business partners.  

ACC: What did the transformation consist of? 

Unisys Legal Department: The transformation of the legal department included several factors. We completely revamped the department, making critical hires to strengthen our capabilities, increase the diversity, and create a dedicated legal operations team. These changes have created centralized operations that increase efficiency through elements such as matter creation, timekeeper rate management, and invoice review. In fact, our department is well-positioned to deliver 15 percent savings in 2023 alone. With this centralized system in place, our team extended the process improvements to budget analysis, financial reporting, dashboards, and leveraging artificial intelligence to increase the optimization of our services further.  

ACC: What results are you most proud of, and what outcome surprised you? And finally, what do you attribute most to the success of the program?  

Unisys Legal Department: We are most proud of becoming a more efficient and effective business partner to our clients. Our efforts improved our service delivery, automated routine tasks to increase our efficiency and achieved significant savings. Having the full support of our leadership team allowed us to maximize the transformation opportunities. An example of a result we’re proud of is the improved billing processes our team implemented. Our legal operations shifted from traditional hourly billing to a matter creation and an improved law firm engagement process that encourages alternative fee arrangements where appropriate. This has resulted in bringing several matters under a fixed fee, increasing more than 13 percent, meaningfully improving our expenses on a year-over-year basis.  

Adding value and supporting diversity  

ACC: What is one thing you recommend legal departments facing similar challenges should start doing immediately to demonstrate value?  

Unisys Legal Department: Internal buy-in, especially at the executive level, is paramount to a successful process transformation. Once the shift is underway, benchmarks and goals should be set, and the team should be able to demonstrate value throughout the process. Select your first few projects that will deliver the most impactful savings, and do not hesitate to use data — before and during the process — to support recommendations and solutions your legal team is putting forward.  

ACC: Another topic of much discussion involves the diversity of the legal department. This was a focus for your team, and your results are impressive. Why was this important to Unisys? Can you share a bit about how you achieved such results?  

Unisys Legal Department: The continued focus on efforts of our internal diversity, equity, and inclusion team is a key aspect of our organization’s growth and development. Due to our increased efforts in diverse hiring, women make up 51.9 percent of the legal team and occupy twice as many positions on our department’s senior leadership team than before the transformation. Additionally, the growth of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in our department has increased from 11.1 percent to 14.3 percent over the past year, with the percentage increase on the leadership team nearly doubling.  

ACC: What advice do you have for other teams looking to create and support a more diverse legal team and organization? 

Unisys Legal Department: Like the overall transformation process, working with leadership on an approach and strategy is a top priority. Unisys saw an increased need for added diversity and started the process by centralizing the operations, changing processes, and making critical, dedicated hires. The company’s legal department is now operating at maximum efficiency with more diversity and a stronger culture of inclusivity that aligns better with functional legal models.  

Closing thoughts  

ACC: Anything else you’d like to share? 

Unisys Legal Department: At Unisys, our purpose is to relentlessly reimagine the status quo to propel people and organizations forward. With 150 years of experience, we remain at the forefront of innovation across products, services, and operations, creating breakthrough solutions for our clients on a global scale. This transformation within the legal department was an example of the internal passion that motivates our progressive actions, and we will continue to evolve to meet the needs of our clients, partners, and industries.