By: Kassi Burns, Esq., RCA
VP of Legal Professional Services, Cobra Legal Solutions
Like so many other organizations, CLOC recently hosted its annual conference virtually. This year’s Global Institute maintained some of the features attendees would expect from a conference: general counsel sessions, round tables and breakout sessions, and networking lounges. As a participating vendor, I was able to attend this year and sit in on some informative sessions. The first of these was “Contract Data Storytelling” which was moderated by Chris Young (Ironclad) and paneled by Anushree Bagrodia (Mastercard), Brad Rogers (TIAA), and Akshay Verma (Facebook).
Chris Young set the stage for this session with a tweetworthy quote: “If you don’t have data, don’t come to the table.” In the age of business analytics and data analytics, using data to help drive decisions is expected. This is true even with legal departments and law offices that can sometimes be slow to change processes. But those legal departments that start using data to drive a narrative can more successfully push forward change. As Anushree Bagrodia noted, sometimes change in a legal department starts small. And starting small means you can change the minds of skeptics who in turn become your champions over time.
Brad Rogers (a long time Cobra client) explained how his legal operations department found themselves “swimming in a sea of data” and yet still didn’t have data regarding their specific goals. This meant the data had to be created – in this instance it included conducting a full activity analysis of the legal department to see who was doing what and how much time they were spending on each activity. This let TIAA determine what activities should be realigned to the appropriate resource to create efficiencies in their department.
Data isn’t something to be held at arms-length. Akshay Verma recommended rolling up your sleeves and really getting to understand the data and what it means. This is something that can often be overwhelming for lawyers. Getting to know people in the finance department is an important relationship to build. Finance can help explain what the data means and be a potential resource on upping your Excel skills. Understanding the data let’s you identify the problem, which in turn leads to iterating solutions to that problem. It’s also important to remember that spend is never going to be the problem so the analysis should go further upstream to understand the root cause of the spend.
Excel skills aren’t the only thing that lawyers may need to brush up on. As you get closer to presenting your data findings and recommendations, improving PowerPoint and general presentation skills will also be important. Anushree shared this is where making friends in marketing can be particularly useful. Knowing how to effectively prepare your presentations means that your narrative will have more impact, whether using graphics, colors, or graphs.
At its most simple, the overall theme of this session was one of building things: building data, building stories, building relationships, and building skills. This puts your legal department in a position to better advocate for what you think is needed for legal operations transformation.