Even a few weeks after LegalWeek 2023, I’m still thinking about some of the strategies I heard from panelists on how to position yourself, in addition to your team and company, for success. At past conferences, I often heard how legal teams can learn to speak the language of their business colleagues and embed themselves more in the business; this year, I heard two key sessions focused on how legal teams can serve as the rocket fuel for a company’s growth AND gain a seat at the decision table for the company overall. These back-to-back sessions featured Malbek’s COO and Co-Founder Matt Patel and Director of Legal and Evangelist Colin Levy alongside Blackstone Legal & Compliance Assistant Vice-President Lizzie Christmas, followed by a conversation between Agiloft General Counsel Laura Richardson and LexFusion CoFounder/CEO Joe Borstein.
Align Your Objectives
One key point each speaker reiterated was how vital it is for legal teams to align themselves with the company’s growth if legal leaders want to secure a spot at the executive table. Too often, legal leaders complain of being siloed from other departments, kept out of deals until the 11th hour, and seen as the Department of No. But ensuring that your team’s strategic priorities mirror those of the business can demonstrate how aligned your team is with the company’s overall objectives. It can help you build not only closer relationships with business leaders but also secure buy-in for your new purchases or initiatives, says Lizzie Christmas.
Speak in the Language of Business
Colin Levy also recommends fluency in the language of business data and numbers if you want to be taken seriously by the business. You must be able to track performance and sales and understand what the business cares about from a quantitative perspective. But Levy assures lawyers (many of whom joke that they chose to attend law school because they were told there would be no math) that they only need to learn basic math, not hard math. Speaking in quantitative numbers helps the legal team show the business their part in closing those deals and how aligned they are with helping the company achieve growth. Agiloft General Counsel Laura Richardson agrees, noting that telling a story is compelling when underlined with data, the language of business.
Share Insights into Company Growth
In terms of the specific data to watch and highlight to your leadership, Malbek COO Patel recommends turning to your biggest data source your contracts to shed light on the bigger picture of the company’s growth. He recommends investigating rising or decreasing contract volume to see if it indicates an increase in impending business and how to plan for upcoming staffing and allocation needs. This can give a general counsel time to plan to scale up their team without spending more money which is always important to leadership focused on the bottom line. But conversely, an increase in initial contracts like nondisclosure agreements may notify the company of a potential hiccup in your sales process if you do not see those converting into subsequent contracts with those same parties.
An increase in nondisclosure agreements may notify the company of a potential hiccup in your sales process if you do not see those converting into subsequent contracts with those same parties.
Watch Metrics that Impact Revenue
Keeping an eye on other data specific to your negotiation process can provide insights into how to streamline your contracting to increase the speed at that revenue comes into the company and improve the customer experience. Patel, Christmas, and Levy recommended watching these key metrics: contract approval time, overall contract cycle time, the percent of clauses altered, and even how many contracts Legal gets involved with (versus sales teams self-serving them). Spending time getting to know your sales colleagues and understanding what is important to them will help you evaluate what is the most essential for protecting the company in the context of their business goals.
Leverage Your Role as Company Historian
Beyond using your contract data to understand your company’s current business, Borstein and Richardson recommend harnessing your unique role as the company historian to serve as the rocket fuel to company growth. The four corners of your contracts provide insights into the reality of who you are as a company, how you conduct business, and the history of your relationships with vendors, customers, and employees. Too often, companies don’t know this information or cannot readily access it if they don’t have technology like a contract lifecycle management system (CLM) to navigate it easily and even serve it up to them.
The four corners of your contracts provide insights into the reality of who you are as a company, how you conduct business, and the history of your relationships with vendors, customers, and employees.
Inform Sales Strategies with Data
Beyond this information, contracts represent the reality of a company’s work and the success or failure of past years’ efforts. Sales teams often are aspirational in their strategies to reach their goals, but you can share in real-time what has happened in the past, what was tried, and what the results were. It can provide a better sense of who the company is and let teams focus instead on iterating on what has worked or failed. Essentially, you can showcase your value by walking into a room of business leaders and providing some grounding to their aspirational ideas, suggests Borstein. But you can only do this if you tell the story in the language of the business transparent data that will resonate with your finance and sales teams and your C-suite.
Become Your Company’s Rocket Fuel
If you start sharing those insights, you can transform your colleagues’ perception of Legal from mere risk mitigators to dynamic problem-solvers for the company. By diagnosing where problems are holding up deals, you can move the needle on bringing in more business and become the rocket fuel driving growth. Richardson notes that then you’re filling in the gaps, providing horizontal integration between teams, and creating a more cohesive and collaborative culture. This work is often desperately needed in high-growth companies scaling up, but no one truly “owns” this role; CLMs can notify you with those insights to facilitate your taking on that role. From designing novel language and counseling on negotiations, predicting future risks, and avoiding pitfalls, legal leaders can leverage CLMs to surface these insights to the business. Borstein notes that many lawyers are great systems thinkers but haven’t always had the technology enabling them to communicate that easily. But we’re finally in a place where we can marry lawyers’ excellent systems thinking with actual systems.
We’re finally in a place where we can marry lawyers’ excellent systems thinking with actual systems.
Utilizing data can help you make an impact with creative ideas inspired by experiences. No more will your legal team be one that just signs off on already-finished deals. Your shared insights to inform business strategy goes a long way toward closing more deals and demonstrating leadership attributes vital for business, changing perceptions of you to one of a growth enabler, and gaining you a seat at the table. If you’re ready to become a game-changer and take your seat at the table, take a look at your contracts and how they can help make you a massive growth engine.