Kathryn Williams, Head of Business Advisory, Cognia

The first two articles of this series focussed on the power of aligning legal operations with business and GC strategy as a starting point for change.  We went on to recommend using a maturity model to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your legal operation to see how prepared you are to deliver on the business and GC strategy. Once you’ve done this you are all set to move forward – or are you? The assessment exercise shows you what is needed but it can feel overwhelming and ambiguous.

So, where do you start?

Change begins with understanding the current state, clarifying the future state and understanding the gap that lies between the two. You have assessed the existing situation, now you can create a clear vision of the future state and define what success will look like. This needs to be visual and compelling and it should be something your legal teams and the business believe in.

The four pillars we referred to in earlier articles are a good framework for defining the future:  1) Purpose,
2) Talent, 3) Ecosystem and 4) Technology & Insight.

Each of these is worthy of a lengthy article in their own right but the snapshots below set out the intent behind each pillar.


Set out what the business needs and expects from its legal function and how you will organise the function to meet those needs. Be clear about how you will proactively both defend and grow the business. Present this as a compelling client centric story that shows the benefits of the changes you will make.

Where you already have change projects inflight (and we are sure most of you will have multiple projects underway) describe how these fit into the overall change journey and what they will deliver. The outcome of this work will be a prioritised road map of the individual projects that are the components of the overall change.


Your legal team are at the heart of your success. Make them part of the visioning process and really invest time in getting their buy-in. Be clear about your career model and how you will invest in development and talent retention. Set out their role in the change journey and how they are a differentiator in success.

Spoiler alert! If you ask your legal team to own a complex part of the change programme and work off the side of their desk then you are unlikely to be successful. A change programme requires specialists and dedicated resources working in collaboration with your legal team.


What legal services do you provide now and how will you provide them in the future? Your sourcing strategy should be at the heart of how you drive change and work towards your vision. Classify your work and challenge robustly where your low risk high volume work should be executed, where specialist work is needed and where institutional knowledge is a critical differentiator.

Too often these decisions are taken in response to a budget crunch and the driver is cost reduction. Of course that’s important but the decision needs to be more rounded and part of your overall vision. Partnering with the external market should help you achieve both savings and deliver value (speed, agility, quality and responsiveness) but this requires a carefully thought through long-term sourcing strategy and a willingness to build enduring relationships.

Be clear where you want to enable the business through self-service and automated workflows with embedded advice and controls. How will you pilot this and build support and confidence in the business so they adopt self-service?

Technology and Insight

Process simplification, automation and data are the building blocks that will enable your vision and turn it into operational reality. It requires investment and prioritisation and each project needs to set out its part in achieving the overall roadmap.

Individual projects need to be carefully scoped and driven by granular outcome-based requirements.  This is especially important when you select and implement new technology or enhance existing systems.

Practical Tips for moving forward

  • Engage the business in the vision and the design of the future state. Use workshops and regular communication channels to maintain the engagement.
  • Work with your legal teams to build enthusiasm and openly share and address concerns. Everyone in the legal team needs to understand and advocate for change and, to do this, they need to understand the positive impact it will have on their career opportunities.
  • Be prepared for challenges and have mitigation plans in place, especially where you are implementing new technology which can often take longer than expected and hit unexpected issues.
  • Don’t lead with technology. There is no point in automating a process that doesn’t work now.  Work from detailed requirements that are aligned with the future state and test these requirements in Proofs of Concepts and Pilots.
  • Be realistic about how long individual projects will take. Over optimism can lead to cynicism and negatively impact buy-in.
  • Keep budgets under review and track progress against forecast spend. Underspend often indicates a problem with progress and overspend may mean your projects are not under strong enough control.
  • Get change delivery specialists involved. These will already be embedded in your business especially in IT and Change functions.
  • Learn from other initiatives in your business. Integrate into your plan what worked well and what could have been better.
  • Seek specialist support. Especially when developing your sourcing strategy and technical strategy.

Finally, this quote from a recent Forbes article captures perfectly the tangible and intangible principles which are key to delivering change:

“……transformation is a team sport that requires its diverse team members and their increasingly fluid roles to work collaboratively and across business units to achieve a common goal. Successful digital transformation is the elevation of the collective over the individual; skillsets over resumes; roles over jobs; constant learning over diplomas; and thoughtful experimentation over fear of failure. It is turning the challenges of a rapidly changing, increasingly complex business climate into opportunities to replace legacy paradigms with new ones that align the enterprise with the workforce, customers, and society. It is doing good, doing well, and creating a sustainable future.”

Leave a Reply