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Here are 5 practical tips to help position Legal as a strategic business partner (and free up your capacity to add more value!) as written by Cil van der Merwe, Senior Legal Counsel at Plexus:

1. Align Legal with company-wide strategic objectives

Every department should have a set of objectives and a purpose that aligns with the broader objectives of the business, and Legal is no exception.

Use these objectives to define a very clear policy on what work you should be doing to achieve these objectives, and what work you should NOT be doing (and then empower the business to do the latter - more on this below).

Legal leaders should work with managers and Execs to gain a deeper understanding of what the business is trying to achieve, and align Legal to support those strategic objectives.

2. Agree on what is expected of the Legal team and measure its impact

Every other department in your business has KPIs, and it’s important that Legal isn’t left behind. How can you improve or demonstrate value, if you don’t measure it? Keep the following in mind:

  • Set clear expectations with your managers and the Exec.

    For example: What is the purpose of Legal? Expectations and objectives should be well defined and will change from organisation to organisation. The Exec will likely not know how to answer that question, and the answer isn’t simply to manage risk! This is your opportunity to define Legal’s value proposition, measure it and achieve it. That will make securing a budget for tech and other initiatives in the future a lot easier!

  • How will success be measured, and what are your KPIs?

    This should be documented and defined to easily articulate the value of Legal. Have a look at this eBook on ‘How to measure the performance of your legal function’ - it sets out very useful tips to measure the performance and impact of your legal function. 

  • Clearly define acceptable risk

    What is acceptable and what is not acceptable risk? If the business is operating within clearly-defined risk parameters, they should be empowered to complete the task themselves and self-serve without Legal involvement.

3. Define and standardise processes

Defining and standardising processes is an important step towards transforming your legal function. For example: How does a contract flow from creation, internal collaboration and approval, to negotiation, signing, storage and tracking post-signing milestones? Can you improve the process? What are the bottlenecks? Can they be removed?

Here are some quick wins:

  • Build out a standard briefing form for Legal support requests. This creates a consistent intake channel and collects all (or most) of the facts up front. When done right, a standard briefing form will help you avoid the back and forth ping pong that comes with briefing over email! The rule should be, if you don’t have all of the information, don’t come to me.
  • Narrow the scope of who can request Legal support. Close the floodgates and ensure only relevant stakeholders can pass support requests to Legal. 
  • Standardise templates and make them easily accessible/usable.
  • Create self-help guidance or FAQs. This prompts the business in the right direction without Legal involvement ● Build standard contract approval processes based on clear delegations of authority.
  • Define rules of engagement. For example, only engage Legal if certain clauses in an agreement are being negotiated. Similarly, you don’t need to approve changes to a standard agreement if it’s only commercial in nature. Rules of engagement can be tailored to your own context, but will save you time and energy. 
  • Define fall-back positions during a negotiation.

This may seem like a lot of work to set up, but the long term ROI will be huge. And when you find yourself in a position to secure a budget, implementing technology to support standardised and well defined processes will set you up for success!

4. Encourage autonomy and self-service by the business

You’ve completed steps 1-3, now it’s time to empower and encourage the business to self-serve and make certain decisions without Legal involvement.

This approach should be supported by your managers and the Exec. The business can then operate at record speeds with the support of FAQs, rules of engagement, templates, fall back positions and more. If all else fails, the business has clearly defined parameters and guidelines about when to involve Legal.

5. Train the business

Once you have implemented steps 1-4, invest time in training the business - it will build trust and pay dividends in the long run! Training can take many forms, including videos, webinars and in-person sessions. But it’s important to remember that training is an ongoing process. Continuing to encourage business users to utilize the processes and systems the legal team has developed will entrench efficiencies and create a positive culture in the long-run.

Click here for the full Plexus article

If you would be interested in a webinar on this topic, please let us know your interest on