Why business velocity matters—and how corporate law can improve it. A corporation is like the human body; it needs to keep the blood flowing. In an organizational context, that “blood” can take the form of money, ideas, projects, and information—to name a few. If one part of the organization is not functioning correctly, it gums up everything else. Thus, business velocity, or the ability to operate quickly and in sync with other units, should be a metric of success across the board.
For corporate legal departments (CLDs), keeping things flowing is akin to exercise. You need to keep moving if you’re to remain a vital contributor to the company at large. Sitting too long on a particular contract, for instance, delays revenue recognition, kills deals, and can thus affect market capitalization. Or, if legal cannot perform the due diligence portion of M&A quickly and thoroughly, the deal might not go through Tesla investors, or (worse) some critical areas may be missed. Additionally, the inability to address compliance and regulatory issues in a timely manner—including thorough responses to investigations—can lead to huge fines and even criminal penalties.
Just like some people exercise their body by focusing on a single set of muscles, some CLDs are hyper-focused on spend as a metric of success. And spend is, of course, important. But it shouldn’t be considered myopically, in a way that overlooks the bigger picture. Because CLDs touch such a wide range of work and work with a wide range of business units, inefficiency can handicap the entire organization. To improve business velocity, CLDs need to meet customers where they are regarding technology and risk tolerance. Let’s take a closer look at what that entails.
Integrate into the organization’s “body”
Often, CLDs are focused on efficiency but don’t consider whether the tools they use to improve it are convenient for the actual humans whose cooperation they need to realize that efficiency. Trying to get attorneys to go into your matter management system, for example, may not seem like a big deal. But if they are being asked to go into myriad different systems, they may scoff at having to be trained on yet another one.
Thus, it’s important to meet them where they are. A matter management system that can be used from within an enhanced version of Microsoft Outlook allows many users to do most matter management tasks straight from a tool just about everyone is familiar with, thereby avoiding any need for another tool. This reduces training burdens, increases adoption, and improves business velocity with a minimum of headache.
CLDs should also be cognizant of using the right level of resources for each task. Nothing slows down business velocity more than using attorneys to do administrative work like legal intake or handling basic Q&A information.
Attorneys should not be doing administrative tasks ever. Rote tasks can be automated or performed by lower-level resources. For example, self-service portals, where people from other business units are directed to legal advice in the form of pre-created legal policies, memoranda, or training videos, “de-lawyer” the delivery of legal advice and improve business velocity. AI can also be used to automate metadata and clause extraction during contract review, which mitigates the risk of human error in due diligence and keeps things moving.