Nordic Regtech Association, LegalWorks and Glowmind

The Changing Role of Inhouse Counsel

How the legal ops concept is using technology to change legal away from a cost center and towards adding value by managing a mix of digital and non-digital services delivered by all sorts of providers.

Regtech is a big part fintech and a big part of SthlmFintechWeek.com. This year the organizers expanded the track to include legaltech with the help of Richard Rosenholtz from the Nordic Regtech Association and Nicholas Hawtin.

The Changing Role of Inhouse Counsel: the panel discussion featured Leif Frykman, founder of LegalWorks, and Victoria Swedjemark, founder at Glowmind and former Head of Legal, Regulatory and Security at Tele2 Sweden. They both explained how legal ops can help corporate legal teams evolve from cost centers to value creators.

Their key takeaways were:

  • Get your lawyers out from behind their desks and out amongst your business units, so they learn exactly how your business works.
  • Track all your legal costs as one expense.
  • Put all of your external legal costs into a spreadsheet, so you can compare like services with like services. Create your own price comparison data to monitor your return on investment.

It can sound obvious, but the fact is that too many legal teams are still isolated from the business functions. Teach them what you do, so they can provide better support.

The audience was mostly from the financial industry, so Victoria helped them understand their lawyer colleagues better. She made great points about how corporate lawyers are often physically separated from the business units they support. They’re busy trying to get their work done, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to roam around the office asking people how they do what they do. It’s also unrealistic to expect them to understand what exactly everyone else does — unless there is a way for them to learn it.

Victoria’s message to the audience was simple: Get your lawyers out from behind their desks and show them what you do.

Leif Frykman started by talking budgets, which made good sense for a financial industry audience. He noted that legal costs are often overlooked, because internal and external costs are usually listed as separate budget line items. Separately, inhouse and external legal costs are often smallish amounts. But when you add the numbers together, they can be considerable.

Leifs message simple, yet effective, recommendation was: add these costs together and to have your lawyers enter all of the external legal costs into a spreadsheet. Opaque prices are a common complaint when dealing with legal costs, but a simple spreadsheet can allow you to compare the cost and quality of similar services delivered by various firms.

Both Leif and Victoria agreed that the opportunity cost in lost time can be the biggest issue. Leif’s message to the audience was similarly straightforward:

“Spending on legal often doesn’t get enough attention”

Tasks that take longer than they need to can cost your business dearly. Think, for example, of legal review of contracts that take days or even weeks, when the sales team can react in minutes and hours. Many tasks are needlessly complicated. The key to simplifying them is to help your lawyers learn exactly what your business needs are — and also where the opportunities lie.

But where to start?

Victoria and Leif had very practical advice for how to get started:

  1. Get your lawyers out from behind their desks and in amongst your business units, so they learn exactly how your business works.
  2. Track all your legal costs as one expense.
  3. Put all of your external legal costs into a spreadsheet, so you can compare like services with like services. Create your own price comparison data to monitor your return on investment.

This advice may sound simple, but it matches the themes discussed throughout 2019.

  1. Too many corporate lawyers work in isolation.
  2. Too many corporate lawyers make do with tools like Outlook and MS Word, when better processes and great legaltech software can make them more productive.
  3. Too many leaders, managers, and colleagues accept the status quo and do not enable their legal experts to create their full potential value.

It’s time to unleash that potential and create more value with better processes and great legaltech.

Find key takeaways from another legaltech panel: Is software still eating the world? and more legaltech knowledge sharing & articles on our profile Medium.com/thinklegaltech

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