This is the third in a four-part series in which Oracle Associate General Counsel Suchitra Narayen, QuisLex CEO Ram Vasudevan and consultant Rees Morrison will discuss the opportunities and challenges facing a global legal department. Read parts one, two and three.
In the first three parts of this series, we discussed internal challenges and opportunities within global legal departments and across broader organizations. In this final installment, we will focus on an external option to help corporate legal departments deploy efficient and cost-effective legal processes. Legal process outsourcing (LPO) providers who take on specific projects or tasks at the direction of an in-house legal department have proven themselves to be valuable partners in designing unique, efficient and cost-effective solutions for corporate legal departments. As the LPO industry has matured, the processes market leaders deploy have become increasingly sophisticated, enabling the in house legal department and the LPO partner to focus on not only legal process management but also hard data analytics that may offer valuable insights to facilitate better, more informed decisions that impact both legal and business strategy.
Focus on long-term, sustainable value: You should identify an LPO that is the best fit for your organization. Are your colleagues already using LPO? If they are, how can you benefit from that relationship? If they aren’t, how can you identify the right partner for your organization and the right opportunities to use this resource most effectively? Start by talking to your industry peers to learn from their experiences. Do your homework—research the leading LPOs, focusing on the quality of the work, areas of expertise and reputation for consistent delivery as opposed to just the cost of services or the delivery location. A potential LPO partner should have the skill, experience and flexibility to provide the most value while meeting your needs. The LPO should be able to take on tasks that allow the in-house legal department to focus on higher priority/higher value work streams. In effect, a good LPO should become an extension of your legal department. Having a strong process orientation, using sophisticated, state-of-the art technology and investing in the training and careers of its workforce are key elements to look for in evaluating a potential LPO partner’s approach to doing business and its fit with your organization.
A true partnership is a two-way street: Don’t look at your LPO provider as a vendor or treat them as a black box. Sure, they have their processes, but you need to ensure that they are tailored to your organization. Arm them with relevant information about your business and legal requirements so they are better equipped to help you. Take the time to transfer substantive knowledge as well as information about the culture and context of your company to them and provide feedback to ensure that the work streams they handle for you appear both substantively and procedurally as if you are handling them yourself. Discuss the challenges you faced (like the ones discussed in previous parts of this series) and how you overcame them, so that they can proactively address and sidestep them.
Maximize the value of the relationship: Start your relationship with projects that both sides are comfortable handling. As you build trust in the work product you receive, consider assigning more complex projects to really leverage your LPO partner’s true capabilities. What may begin with a simple post-merger integration project working with corporate counsel may evolve into end-to-end contracts lifecycle management, the administration of an open-source licensing program, working hand-in-hand with intellectual property lawyers and engineering teams, or helping to design and implement a contracts-related compliance program. Your LPO partner can also draw on their own experience to help you create innovative, unique solutions, so consider joint brainstorming sessions or periodic reviews to help you jointly monitor issues and effectively deal with new challenges. By helping the legal department to support both legal and non-legal functions across regions, your partner can extrapolate best practices that could be adopted globally and identify opportunities to drive uniformity in practices and processes.
Leverage analytical capabilities to provide insights and add value across the organization: As your partner takes on these more complex tasks, they may be able to deliver metrics that support not just requirements within the global legal department but also the needs of the compliance organization, audit committees, sales, procurement, engineering and other stakeholders. By viewing contract management or other tasks as a business solution rather than just a legal process, they can help the legal department provide more comprehensive support to non-legal groups with a constant eye toward building efficiencies. They have a unique viewpoint from which to evaluate your contracting or other practices in real-time, which allows them to provide data analytics on legal and business issues across projects by capturing operational metrics, contract content and other data.
Treat your LPO partner as your “center of excellence”: Having one team coordinate among the various stakeholders for a particular workflow vastly reduces risk and eliminates inefficiencies because that team will have the best knowledge of the associated process. This could apply to supporting a serial acquiror in its M&A due diligence efforts, administering a comprehensive contracts management program, or providing support during a corporate restructuring. A successful multi-shore approach may entail relying primarily on an execution center with permanent employees in India or elsewhere, supplemented by an onshore delivery center that could handle localized requirements that may arise on occasion, such as the need to negotiate in a less-common foreign language that an offshore center might not support.
Once you have successfully identified and navigated the internal challenges you face as a global legal department, take further advantage of globalization’s benefits by identifying an external partner who will leverage people, process and technology to help you become more efficient and effective handling current and future challenges and in seizing the corresponding opportunities.
The authors would like to thank Sailaja Meesaraganda, Client Manager, QuisLex and Andrew Goodman, Executive Director of Litigation Services, QuisLex for their help and input with this installment of the series.