Four strategic tips for general counsel working remotely

General Counsel (GC) are used to conducting their work with virtual systems and processes in place. Before remote work became encouraged or enforced due to COVID-19, many legal departments were already comfortable with file storage, collaboration, and matter management for the most part. Think of all the virtual legal teams that cover multiple jurisdictions. They are experts in “following the sun” and offering legal guidance to the business across multiple time zones.

If you’re a GC reading this, you probably have your remote working conditions well established in your legal department and things are ticking along nicely. But as we begin to move beyond the circumstances of “the new normal,” these 4 tips will help your legal department look forward to more strategic and better ways of doing business.

1. Protect client and vendor data

The threat of an internal or external data breach is a liability for all organizations, especially during remote working conditions where there are more variables. It’s important for legal departments to manage trade secrets and business confidentiality securely. Chris McLaughlin, Director at Cyber Solutions Group, Aon, spoke to Thomson Reuters recently alerting GCs to virtual workplace risks.

“We know that threat actors are actively targeting individuals at home. They target virtual private networks in order to try and get access to corporate systems, and some organizations have actually had their physical premises broken into,” said Chris.

With sophisticated, global cyber attacks occurring regularly, here are two measures you’ll want to revisit, should a policy or operational process need updating:

Safe and secure file sharing: Basic email attachments are risky when it comes to sharing files and spreadsheets with sensitive or confidential information. Cloud-based collaboration platforms can help your organization implement best practices and a more connected culture as they enable users—internal and external—to quickly and securely share vast amounts of information.

Data breach response preparedness: What is your contingency plan if your legal team or someone in your organization reports a data breach? It is critical for GCs to have policies and procedures in place to manage the situation as soon as it happens, without escalation into further breaches. Be mindful of the data breach legal responsibilities in your jurisdiction. For example, all 50 states have adopted data breach notification statutes, many with sector-specific provisions. Requirements vary widely and there is no federal-level statute.

2. Generate advanced matter and spend analytics

COVID-19 has had an impact on legal spend in some regions more than others. The 2020 edition of the Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index from Thomson Reuters found a slight trend towards increasing budgets in the US, with 22% of respondents seeing a budget decrease and 32% reporting a budget increase in the last 12 months.

But we all know legal departments are often seen as cost centers rather than strategic partners and are constantly under pressure to demonstrate their value to the wider organization, often by focusing on efficiency. If you’re looking to be more strategic on your legal spend for the business, the ability to report back to your stakeholders with advanced spend and matter management analytics is a must.

If you don’t have a dedicated spend and matter management analytics platform solution, it may be time to build a business case for one. Once you have an effective tech solution in place, it will enable you to justify the funds that your legal department is using and for what. Then you can cut down on funds being wasted and report back on what you’ve trimmed through the strategic levers you have pulled.

3. Streamline contract creation and management

Automating legal contracts and documents is a game changer to those familiar with the innovative practice. However, even the legal teams that have built up automated contracts and legal documents over the years may be due for an upgrade. A customized, end-to-end contract management system can be rolled out to your legal team and for the rest of the business to use. This strategic choice can reduce the burden on your legal guidance for minor matters, so you can spend more time on higher-level work.

Platform solutions provide the building blocks to deliver multiple legal and business solutions in a single, unified user experience. They enable you to automate contract creation and approval, identify and manage risk as well as monitor obligations and compliance through one central hub. And as the business grows and evolves, it’s easy to adapt and scale a platform to accommodate new processes.

4. Champion internal and external communication

As a strategic legal adviser to your organization, responsive communication is essential. If you are a leader of your legal team, such as the GC or Legal Operations Director, a strategic move could be to foster an internal culture of knowledge sharing and thought leadership. You can achieve this through platform solutions that offer a complete digital workplace for your organization—giving users a better way to collaborate, communicate, and connect with their team.

Championing innovative communication with your law firm advisers is beneficial, too. For example, if you have an urgent legal matter and need to call in external counsel for specialized advice, you want to submit the brief to them effectively and quickly.

With a platform solution, seamless collaboration and communication is a given, where you can work on shared files and act fast on legal matters that require you and your adviser’s urgent attention. Look for an adviser that is just as innovative as you, so you can work together to handle complex legal issues that arise when needed.

It’s features like these that really help gain buy-in for a legal technology from your stakeholders, because cloud-based platforms have dozens of use cases not only for your legal team, but marketing departments and human resources, too.

With these 4 strategic, in-house tips now on your radar, which one resonates with you? Find out more about how you can build your virtual workplace through a connected legal hub with Thomson Reuters.

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