Janet Taylor-Hall, CEO, Cognia

To close off our series I wanted to capture the key take-aways and leave you with a set of steps to help start the journey to an agile legal operation.

01 Collaborate with a broader network of relationships

Work together with your legal services delivery partners to encourage diversity of thinking and experience. Gaining insight from a wider range of perspectives will help you solve complex strategic problems.

In my experience there are only positive gains from collaborating with others who are exposed to a wide range of company environments and sector-specific legal issues. 

02 Find the connectors working across industry

Professional connectors who work across the industry are becoming more important. They bring emotional intelligence, a can-do attitude, and an outsider’s perspective. They typically arrive with a willingness to work with everyone on solutions that address ESG- and technology-driven legal challenges.

Connectors were amongst the first to see that GCs could learn a lot from the tech sector, where the CTO of an FTSE 100 might need additional project managers in Q3 or a scaled-up dev team in the runup to a new product launch.  

03 Treat work as a space, not a place

Splitting out activities into a hub and spoke model enables GCs to better allocate talent and scale teams according to capability. As a result, a more diverse range of skill sets in data science, technology, and operations can complement traditional legal roles.

Consider how you can augment a smaller A-team of permanent staff with specialist resources and skill sets that can be activated when they are really needed. Splitting up major initiatives such as M&A into core and complementary tasks, then leveraging outside resource to up-tier core teams, will give GCs more freedom to focus on strategic objectives.

04 Embrace the human-machine workspace

It’s possible now to access quality legal services using software or online platforms. The cloud has greatly simplified the process of finding and engaging trusted legal suppliers who have specialist skill sets, or can handle legal workloads that are more transactional in nature.

The coming hybrid legal department will also need new data-centric skill sets. GCs will need to analyse team workloads to assess efficiency, while the ability to mine contracts and transactions for deeper insights that can inform corporate strategy will become increasingly important.

05 Create a safe space for new initiatives

As you re-think your department’s operating model, it’s important to create an environment where experimentation is encouraged and the reality that sometimes a new tool or initiative might go wrong is accepted.

The profession is in a trial and error phase and that’s to be welcomed – in fact it’s probably unavoidable. Innovation in reality comes through a process of small incremental changes.  To get comfortable with change, people need to know they have the freedom to try things out, discard what doesn’t fit, and even fail without consequences

Legal hasn’t changed much in a hundred years, and it’s been a laggard on digital transformation. Is it ready to join the mainstream and embrace a process of experimentation?

I think the answer has to be yes. The pace of business is accelerating, and boards expect GCs to ensure their operating models can deliver faster counsel for faster decision-making.

In-house or legal service provider, legal has to get out in front and take control of its own destiny, or be dragged into the digital unknown.