The Legal Department is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of modern business. While it is well known that this department plays an integral role in the functioning of a company or corporation, its actual remit, or purpose, can often seem nebulous. As a result, efforts to increase efficiency within the organisation as a whole can be undermined by remaining inefficiencies in the Legal Department.
However, of all the departments in your business, the Legal Department ranks among the first that should be targeted for efficiency measures. This is because the Legal Department connects with all aspects of your business and, therefore, any savings made here will resonate throughout the organisation. This is the area of your business where the biggest impact can be made in the shortest timeframe, delivering tangible, visible results with less resource usage.
What does the Legal Department do?
The Legal Department is the point in a business structure where all areas and departments intersect. It is the nexus; the hub; the centre of a networked system that encompasses all commercial activity for your enterprise. As such, the success of your organisation is inextricably bound to the functioning of this business area. In broad terms, your Legal Department is responsible for managing the duties and obligations of a business, in law and in trading activities. Specifically, that means it deals with:
- Governance and compliance – This includes overseeing and advising on laws relating to share dealings, mergers and acquisitions, shareholder activities, directors activities, constitution and powers, corporate structure, board and committee training in decision-making, regulatory requirements, and corporate governance.
- Communications – This includes Public Relations practices, reputation management, internal communications, social responsibility, and liaison with government and regulators. This role is closely related to governance and compliance, as the main goal is to create cohesion within the promotional aspect of the business.
- Human Resources – This is also closely related to governance and compliance, as it involves dealing with employment law and regulation, as well as any legal issues raised regarding the duties and obligations of either the employer, or the employee.
- Finance – The financial side of business is heavily regulated and involves complex tax legislation that varies according to location and industry. Here the Legal Department ensures that financial reporting and tax obligations are met.
- Data protection – This is a multi-faceted area that includes governance and compliance with regulation, and also includes the management of supplier and customer relations, in terms of obligation and duty. For the Legal Department, the area of data protection can also involve access requests, and the management of Intellectual Property rights.
- Property – The Legal Department is highly involved in all aspects of the business property ownership and facilities management, as well as issues of Health and Safety legislation, from a governance and compliance perspective.
In all of these areas, the main purpose of the Legal Department is Risk Management. In all things, the Legal Department serves to accurately assess and mitigate risk involved in decision-making, the building and maintenance of commercial relationships, and the adherence of the business to its obligations and duties.
How does automation help the Legal Department?
The general principle of automation in the workplace is to relieve staff of repetitive, basic tasks. In manufacturing environments, for example, this would be parts of the assembly line. In publishing, this would be the printing process. In the Legal Department of any type of business, this would be the fundamentals of Contract Management.
Manual Contract Management is a highly time-consuming process. Whether the system in question is entirely paper-based, or is handled with unconnected spreadsheets, the burden remains on Legal staff to manually track changes, find issues of non-compliance, and ensure the effective communication of obligation and duty to all parties. These are inefficient, cumbersome strategies that drain profit from the business in terms of lengthy contract approval processes, and simple but costly human error.
By automating the basic tasks of Contract Management, the efficiency of your Legal Department is greatly improved. Accuracy is increased, which consequently decreases the risk and cost of legal disputes. The time and skills of your Legal Department staff can be better deployed which, in turn, shortens project timescales as workflows become more productive. The obligations and duties of the business, in terms of regulatory compliance and governance, are easier met. Perhaps most importantly, the increased speed and accuracy of the work of your Legal Department means that customer and supplier relationships alike are repaired and improved.
The Contract Management Software solution
In Contract Management, a high degree of automation is achieved with the implementation of Contract Management Software. The features offered by the very best of these software packages, such as Symfact, are specifically designed to support your Legal Department in such a way as to create increased efficiency throughout your operation.
- Centralised repository
Contract Management Software is built around a centralised document repository containing all contracts, agreements, and supporting documentation. Storing these documents in this way reduces capital expenses, including premises and document storage equipment. It also allows for accurate cataloguing of documentation through the use of metadata which, in turn, reduces the amount of time and effort expended by staff in trying to locate specific documents, information, or clauses.
- Automated workflows
Without Contract Management Software, a great deal of Legal Department time is spent simply chasing documentation, or moving agreements through the chain of approval. Automated workflows not only move documents as required, and on time, they also issue customised alerts and notifications to ensure that negotiations, amendments, drafting, and approvals all happen on schedule.
- Permission-based access
Cloud-based Contract Management Software, such as Symfact, allows for authorised personnel to access the system from any internet-connected location, from any web-enabled device. This means that all activity, including amendments, is tracked and recorded as an audit trail. This automated accountability feature makes compliance strategies and reviews more accurate, and less time-consuming to complete.
- Customised reporting
Every function of the Legal Department relies on staff being able to find and utilise as necessary actionable data. Automated, customised reporting allows for legal staff to mine the centralised repository for specific information, from generalised to granular levels. Data of this type can be used to monitor compliance throughout the company and in specific agreements, and can play an integral role in effective risk management strategies.
By embracing and implementing Contract Management Software, your business can increase efficiency within the Legal Department, and see the impact of those improvements reverberate throughout the organisation. Increased efficiency creates increased productivity, which results in increased profitability for any business. Call Symfact today to discuss how you can support your Legal Department with Contract Management automation.