Aside from supporting the day-to-day running of the business – turning around contracts and providing advice as requests come in – the purpose of an in-house legal function is to be a strategic business partner. This often means being at the forefront of strategic decision-making, at the center of large and potentially risky projects, and spearheading high-profile financial decisions. And it’s the combination of business as usual (BAU) and strategic work that drives legal’s ultimate impact on higher business objectives.
However, it’s usually not until the money comes in, the deal is signed, or when the ultimate higher business objective is achieved that the legal function is recognized! Which is why we’ve compiled some key takeaways from The Connected Legal Function framework. These shed light on how to report on higher business objectives so you can begin to showcase the true value and impact of your legal function.
Surfacing the right data and legal metrics
It all begins by determining what data and metrics are best aligned with higher business objectives, and this varies depending on the type of organization or legal function you’re in and how easily you can surface the data needed.
For example, in a more sales-oriented organization the business objective might be to speed up deals and unlock value. One approach could involve reporting on how self-service has sped up contract turnaround time or new templates have reduced redlines to move quicker through sales processes.
If you’re more of a litigation-heavy team, you could look to report on how much money you have saved your organization by settling cases. Or, in identifying risks before they surfaced and contextualizing litigation spend (while we spent X we saved Y) because of the trend identified.
If you’re utilizing legal technology such as a legal workspace, you’ll have access to rich insights and data along with the ability to leverage data across all workflows to support your quantitative analysis.
If you’re using individualized point solutions or processes that involve email, spreadsheets and shared drives, while you may have the quantitative data, it might take longer to compile it.
In other organizations or legal functions, a more holistic analysis considers both qualitative and quantitative data. Here’s a few examples of insights that are particularly powerful at holistically illustrating legal’s impact:
- if you’ve been recording company objectives on your intake forms, consider reporting on the synergy between those objectives and the outcomes achieved by the legal function
- keep track of board objectives – if the board places particular emphasis on efficiency or innovation this quarter and your legal team really lived and breathed those objectives, call this out in your report
- take note of OKRs from the wider business as it’s likely some of them would not have been possible without legal’s contribution
- company culture – embodying company culture and values is a key part of driving the company’s vision forward, so consider sharing examples of your legal team which supports this
The best part is that just like legal’s BAU work, and the data collected in completing day-to-day legal tasks, you’re also likely to have all the qualitative information to report on the bigger ticket items. It’s just a matter of identifying what is most relevant and aligned to your business’s higher objectives, and the way in which your legal function supports them.
How to tell the story of legal’s impact on higher business objectives
Equally important to surfacing the right data is how and where to best showcase legal’s impact. Or in other words, how to make the effort and contribution your legal function provides as a strategic business partner more visible. According to The Connected Legal Function framework, the following avenues are a good place to start when it comes to telling the story of your legal function:
- dedicated board reporting time – ensure legal has a dedicated board reporting time, so you can share and explain legal’s impact to key stakeholders
- produce and share annual reports – this will enable you to keep the company up to date with your impact, as well as illustrate year-on-year improvement from your legal function
- generate quarterly business reports – this gives you more visibility across the organization, and the opportunity to present to key leaders and other stakeholders
- consider ways to internally (and immediately) celebrate the moments where legal has enabled something to happen
Regardless of what type of data is best suited for your organization and legal function, it’s important that you do something with it! By telling the story of your legal function, you’re marketing it as an enabler, and this goes a long way in showcasing and gaining recognition of legal’s impact as a strategic partner aside from the money coming in or the deal being signed.