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The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

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ZoomInfo’s In-house Legal Support Intake Process  

When Associate General Counsel James Henry joined ZoomInfo in 2017, a key part of his role involved supporting the growth of the go-to-market platform’s customer base. Henry and his team delivered — putting into place internal policies and processes that supported and helped grow that customer base from a few thousand companies, to over thirty thousand. While rapid growth is something companies want, it can create challenges and result in the need to review practices that no longer work due to increased volume. For example, simple practices like sending legal requests via email or internal messaging, which lack critical details like status, age, or priority, and cross-departmental (or organizational) visibility can cause delays in the ability for the legal team to effectively do its job at scale.  

The legal review process requires efficiency  

This was the challenge facing ZoomInfo’s legal team. Legal requests must be received, reviewed, and prioritized in a timely manner. To achieve this, Henry and team created an internal in-house legal case and approval process to manage intake of all legal requests and pinpoint bottlenecks. Through this process improvement, the legal team can strategically focus its resources, as well as keep track of important data points like response time, category of requests, and volume of requests.  

“We’re using tools and systems that we already had invested in,” says Henry. “Therefore, our approach came through an evolution of understanding how the product and engineering team was using our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool to pull reports and track projects — and to use it in a way that’s not just storing customer and deal related information for the sales team.”  

Start with the tech (and processes) you have  

Using existing technology and creating an internal process allowed ZoomInfo to increase organization-wide efficiencies, and save significant cost associated with bringing in new tech, as well as the time it would have taken to implement an outside service process to achieve similar, yet less customizable results. “When you’re using an existing system of record and tying in legal processes to it, you can prevent duplicative work at the onset of a relationship,” explains Henry. “When we get a request, some of the things we should know are already populated because they are important to the business, like what they are buying, how much is costs, and the anticipated timing of the transaction. Those are important values that the business and sales teams capture in their reporting, and it helps us track and address those things too.”  

Even when using existing technology and internal teams, getting buy-in to overhaul central processes which affect how other teams do their jobs is tricky. “When you’re trying to take and utilize limited resources, whether it’s financial or human capital, you must find something that’s appealing and beneficial for all the parties,” says Henry. The legal team sought feedback from the sales team, which was sometimes frustrated with the transparency and speed of the legal team, while the legal team couldn’t easily access and measure the data which could prove, and/or aid in its ability to efficiently address requests. “Mold your pitch to the stakeholders you’re trying to appeal to with what matters to them most, whether it’s transparency, speed, or efficiency.” This approach, which included gathering feedbacks from all teams, along with the fact that Henry wasn’t spending money on potential external solutions, made buy-in easier.   

Involve key stakeholders early and keep the conversation going  

Communication with key stakeholders is also critical, especially when building something new internally, which incorporates existing technology and practices. The ZoomInfo legal team started conversations early with the data engineers and technical experts tasked with bringing the system into being. “The process itself was very iterative,” according to Henry. “They’d build it, and we’d [the legal team] look at it and provide feedback. It’s the reason it’s been so successful; we were thinking about it in the long-term. It’s been a three-plus-years process with changes over time — substantive procedural changes that allow us to tinker with it, and receive outputs that we can measure, quarter over quarter and year over year.”  

This analysis allows ZoomInfo a snapshot into things like customer volume. “We can now look back at what kind of volume we were dealing with, for example, in August of last year or the year before, and see if sales numbers are down, but volume is still up. That is the level of legal support we can now anticipate providing, regardless of how many deals are still funneling through.” Today, the legal team forecasts support volume on a monthly and quarterly basis, making it possible to provide high-level insights to the ZoomInfo business team on bandwidth and turnaround time (among other metrics).  

Get results 

Since implementing its review and approval processes, ZoomInfo’s legal team has helped the company achieve several improved outcomes, including cutting initial contract review turnaround time by 30 percent; a 60 percent improvement of turnaround time for approvals; 25 percent improvement on contract finalizations; and of course, the time and cost savings related to not hiring an outside firm or service provider. Henry is most proud of the speed in which the team can now turnaround legal reviews, as well as the transparency of a process that supports needed conversations with the business and leadership. “The dashboards make it easier to have high level conversations about the quality of legal support. Providing that type of visibility to C-suite members — especially when they have questions or feedback — is really helpful; to be able to pull a quick report, summarize it, and show the quality of the work we’re providing.”  

Again, those dashboards and the internal case system developed by Henry’s legal team were built completely in-house, using existing technology and data to gradually improve processes and outcomes. The team can prioritize support requests based on a variety of objective factors, like time sensitivity and level of executive involvement; the process is visible to the business team, which almost eliminates manual status updates. Most notably, after using the system for several years, the legal department’s turnaround time predictability has greatly improved. In fact, the team can confidently boast 48-hour turnaround times for most legal requests — impressive considering a seven-member legal team supporting more than 1000 sellers.  

A main focus of the legal department is support, and providing that support in a timely and effective manner which allows the business to meet its goals. To that end, Henry emphasizes the importance of alignment between the legal department and the business’s goals, and champions processes that increase transparency, accountability, and predictability. “Learn what different aspects of your business look like. That type of education is important to build a certain level of trust and transparency in getting things done. It’s good to re-evaluate how you’re approaching and supporting the business. Because if you feel like you’re doing a good job and it’s not being recognized, there’s likely something that you need to be doing differently to understand how you can effectively communicate the value you’re providing.”