In the midst of CPD points season, legal operations professionals, General Counsel and entire in-house departments can now view The Legal Operations Balancing Act, the latest Thomson Reuters webinar which originally streamed on 18 February.
The panel of experts includes Naheed Sanusi, whose journey to being the Legal Operations Manager at AustPost may be familiar to the regular Legal Insight reader. In addition, Charlie Williamson, the Head of Legal & Governance at Goldwind Australia, provides his experiences of balancing legal operations for the local arm of the international wind farm organisation headquartered in Beijing, China.
Our very own Chief Regional Counsel, Janine Cane rounds off the webinar with an overarching take on how her legal team utilises matter management, e-billing and document automation solutions to help cover the Asia and Emerging Markets region.
Dotti Gosper, Legal Tracker Product Specialist, is the webinar host and moderator, who joins the program with a wealth of legal operations experience. Dotti has been on Legal Tracker implementation journeys with Naheed, Charlie and Janine for their respective organisations. Legal Tracker is the Thomson Reuters matter management and e-billing solution, and one which brought our speakers together for this granular, legal operations webinar.
In this article, we provide a recap on the highlights, but for the full experience we encourage you to register for the webinar and enjoy it on demand.
Bringing legal operations to the AustPost legal function
First up Naheed has shared in this webinar what legal operations looks like in her team now that Legal Tracker has been implemented, further highlighting its impact on her department and the wider business.
The Legal Operations Manager said that Legal Tracker has prompted two big changes to the team – one from an organisational, business perspective and one from a team perspective.
“From the business side, we have now consistent monthly reporting. We have removed the requirement for a full time admin person, because we now have accruals that the law firms are required to upload into the system,” said Naheed, further adding that the accruals then get pushed out to the finance team on a monthly basis.”
“So this was a really amazing tool for us to keep across and have an audit trail around time-keeper rates. I’ve got complete visibility on spend against the budget. We built SAP integration for payment of invoices, and I can do great financial reporting. It’s really improved and really developed that law firm accountability”– Naheed Sanusi, Legal Operations Manager, AustPost
Eighteen months on, Naheed said she has strengthened her relationships with the finance team and law firm advisors.
From a team perspective, it’s been a big change and a mindset change around matter management. Recently, Naheed reviewed the data that she had captured via Legal Tracker over a certain time period. By reviewing the analytics, Naheed was able to determine the types of matters that were high value, low value, their level of strategy and turn them into initiatives.
In summary, Naheed suggested that through increased efficiencies, lawyers in legal teams can become business partners, spend less time on the grunt work and more time on being strategic advisers. Additionally, from a team perspective it’s all about improving reporting and providing legal managers with transparency.
Conforming Legal Tracker to Goldwind Australia’s e-billing and invoicing needs
Before Legal Tracker came along, Charlie Williamson from Goldwind Australia investigated how legal services were being engaged at the organisation and how they were being paid for.
“When I first took over the position of Head of Legal (& Governance) I went out to all the different stakeholders in the business, which are the project managers, the project controller, the department head, and really tried to understand how things were working, but also how they weren’t working. And specifically in relation to the engaging of external lawyers, and the payment of their invoices,” explained Charlie.
In his presentation, Charlie then outlined five key themes internally that needed to be addressed at his organisation on the legal and governance side of the business. They included, but are not limited to, centralising the approach to engaging with lawyers to avoid inconsistent rates and invoices, keeping track of budgets over time and ensuring bills were being paid within reasonable time-frames.
Charlie went out to the market to find a product that would solve these issues, and turned to Legal Tracker as the solution.
“I basically went out to the market to see how I was going to solve these issues, and Legal Tracker really was the best fit”– Charlie Williamson, Head of Legal & Governance, Goldwind Australia
“The automatic auditing of invoices was really helpful. So the first stage, just having a system that’s going to be checking through these pages and pages of narratives and checking rates and fee earners against estimates was just a huge administrative workload that was taken off the team than the in-house team as well.”
“So it really was a fantastic solution to the problem and the way our business ran and Legal Tracker really conformed to that. And then we spent time – I spent time – sitting down with each of the law firms and explaining how it would work. But given that most of them knew how our systems worked, they were more than happy just to understand this setup and then conform their invoices to this, because ultimately, it helps with their transparency and it helps get their costs paid quicker,” said Charlie.
Use of Legal Tracker and Contract Express at Thomson Reuters
For Janine Cane, the legal unit at Thomson Reuters really changed when they employed a legal operations manager in the US. This particular staff member brought the legal department together in a number of ways. From virtual meetings, to know-how processes and the use of Legal Tracker. This all took place before Thomson Reuters acquired the matter management and e-billing solution.
“I think it was one of those cases of, we liked it so much, we bought it! Like Charlie and Naheed said, Legal Tracker gave us greater visibility and control over our legal spend”– Janine Cane, Regional Chief Counsel, Thomson Reuters, Asia and Emerging Markets
Now things are even more advanced. Janine’s role has since expanded to cover multiple jurisdictions. An enormously useful feature in Legal Tracker for Janine and her role is the ability to approve invoices with the help of its in-built currency converter.
Another efficiency Janine has found useful to balance the legal operations side of her legal team is the document automation solution, Contract Express.
“Contract Express enables the Thomson Reuters legal team to reduce the number of repetitive tasks that its lawyers have had to get involved with historically.”
“The great thing about it, is that it’s empowered our business partners to be able to do most of the work that they’d previously had to wait for a lawyer to get involved in. The other great thing, from a triage perspective, is that it then provides me with the ability to report out to the business with a number of key metrics,” she added.
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In Janine’s view, the data offered by Contract Express is excellent from a reporting point of view, because lawyers don’t typically speak in metrics, whereas in business you do. So it’s helped Janine and her team be on the same wavelength when having reporting conversations with the leadership team.
The webinar host and moderator, Dotti Gosper, provided a huge thank you to all three thought leaders who took part in the webinar, further adding:
“It’s also important to remember, that while you might be the innovator in your legal department, you’re never alone when it comes to executing a project. Certainly for Legal Tracker, you’ve got a project manager in your corner who’s experienced in legal operations and processes, guiding you and sharing advice and best practices to help bring those initiatives of yours to life.”
Whether you missed our thought leaders’ share their fascinating stories of in-house success, or simply want to watch it again, head right over to this webinar registration form to listen in on The Legal Operations Balancing Act.