Demonstrating the Value of In-House Legal Through Self-Service
If you want to develop an app, you would think you need programming knowledge. Traditionally, software is “coded”, i.e. written line by line in the form of software code. However, recently there’s another approach available: low code / no code development. This approach has the coding part already in place, enabling you to program with pre-defined functions and actions which you typically can drag & drop to build out your application.
As a result, software development projects can also be implemented by end-users with little programming knowledge. In this blog we will explain to you what low code and no code development exactly means, how it already is being used, and what clear advantages it has for (in-house) legal teams to demonstrate real value.
The struggle is real
An in-house legal department has a very strategic role within any organization, as they provide legal guidance for the business. This legal guidance comes in many ways, for example, providing input for legal documents, ensuring compliance with laws & regulations, and addressing legal issues if they may occur.
Overall, it is safe to say that an in-house legal team has a strategic role, due to the importance of conducting business in a compliant way, as well as protecting the brand and organization. Furthermore, the legal team typically deals with a wide range of teams within a business which makes it more interesting to involve them in strategic business discussions.
For instance, legal teams could support sales reps with a digital toolset to run end-to-end deals in an easy, secure, and compliant way. This toolset is available 24/7 for all sales whilst the legal team ensures proper use of clauses, terms & conditions for automated document creation. But as this may sound appealing, the reality is that legal teams have a difficult time supporting such initiatives.
That’s where to so-called “the struggle is real” comes from. Even though their strategic and important role, legal teams often have limited resources to answer a growing demand of requests from the business. Due to this mismatch, in-house legal teams could fail to demonstrate their value to its fullest potential.
How did we get here?
Let’s take a step back and dive into how this could have happened. Because a better understanding of the cause of this mismatch should also help with providing developing an approach to turn things around.
The first reason is a giveaway: the global Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has placed an unprecedented strain on corporate spending ever since it occurred. Company budgets are under greater scrutiny than ever, which increases the pressure on internal departments and teams to demonstrate their value.
The second reason is the growing demands and requests for the legal department. It’s a given that the business requires more legal guidance, mainly because of the ever-growing laws and regulations that businesses need to comply with. For instance, the rise of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on data protection and privacy in the European Union did have a major impact on how businesses control and process personal data. In fact, it still has a major impact and will only become more complex over time. It’s a recent example that illustrates the growing demand for legal and compliance functions.
A third reason is the difficulty to demonstrate the result of actions by the in-house legal team. In most cases, it’s not possible to directly link the ideas, explanations, or warnings of an (in-house) lawyer to the outcome of a specific transaction or dispute. And if positive contributions are difficult to quantify, that counts double for instances when the “added value” is the avoidance of loss.
So with no financial return to demonstrate, a growing amount of request from the business and a departmental budget to protect, how do in-house legal teams prove their ROI in today’s world?
Introducing: (legal) self-service
What if there is a way to provide legal services to the business in an easy, secure and scalable way? That would support the in-house legal team in overcoming current challenges – whilst also being able to demonstrate the value of the in-house legal team for the business.
But how, you ask? Well let’s dive deeper into the phenomenon of self-service. In it’s core, self-service is rather self-explanatory. Self-service enables you to service yourself, without the need of any intervention.
We all know plenty applications of self-service from our personal experiences, from ordering food (e.g. McDonalds) to customer support whereas you look for an answer yourself (e.g. Apple Support) and managing end-to-end transportation from your mobile device (e.g. Uber).
These are well-known examples of how global companies are embracing self-service to improve the delivery of their services. However, these are examples of how self-service is being used mainly for business to consumer (B2C) use cases.
Nevertheless, self-service is also gaining ground in business to business (B2B) applications. Let’s take a closer look in how self-service already is being used by businesses to improve service delivery towards internal and/or external clients.
A business offers a wizard in which employees (or clients) are able to create a document on the fly, by providing input that can be entered manually or can be sourced from other systems. As a result, someone is able to generate a document that meets the standards and requirements of the business in a very short amount of time – without the need for input from any other than themselves.
Virtual assistant / Chatbot
A business offers the option to ask questions to a system digitally, which then is able to immediately respond with an answer to this question – making use of the collective knowledge of a business. Of course there won’t be an answer for all questions but these self-service bots will improve over time and definitely save time if an employee or clients would need to know something fast.
A business offers employees embedded digital guidance for a range of use cases as ESG, gift & hospitality, purchase check and more. Based on input from the user, there is an immediate response based on automated decision-making. As a result, it could be that a user immediately could move forward or that further investigation is required – speeding up the decision-making process significantly.
The above are all general examples of how self-service can be embedded in a business to improve service delivery. When we relate this to in-house legal teams, it’s clear that self-service is a must for any in-house legal team that would like to streamline their services gradually.
The benefits of self-service
Before we are going to drill down on specific use cases for self-service from an in-house legal team perspective, we will look at the benefits of the “self-service approach”.
Agile service: One of the most common complaints from employees and clients across various industries is service delays, be it a long phone wait, a long line for face-to-face assistance, or a long period for an email to be returned. Self-service lets employees and clients get answers in minutes, all done without having to wait for an attendant or be on the phone for hours.
Customer autonomy: Customers have the independence to solve their problems as they see fit. In addition, self-service platforms can be accessed from different devices, often also from different platforms.
Availability any time of day, every day: Self-service is typically available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This means that employees and clients can log on to the self-service platform at any time and from anywhere. Even in a distant city or time zone, they will be able to clear up any worries and complete a range of procedures.
Increase in employee and customer satisfaction: With the agility and availability of service, employees and clients are more satisfied with your brand, which tends to positively influence results.
Greater customer retention: With greater agility of service and higher customer satisfaction, so increases retention. As it generally more difficult to win over new customers, it’s safe to say that it makes sense to deploy initiatives that focus on customer retention.
Scalability: A self-service solution allows you to serve hundreds — even thousands — of employees or clients at the same time. It is no longer necessary to have one attendant available for each specific request, streamlining the entire process. Furthermore, being able to easily build out a self-service solution that spans multiple departments is a great way of gradually transform the delivery of specific services.
Cost reductions: In the long run, investing in a self-service platform saves a lot of money for almost any business. The reason for this is that self-service platforms enable you to lower the size of your staff or allocate resources and as a result, keep teams more focused on strategy.
Examples of making self-service work as an in-house legal team
Until here, we have covered self-service in a more generic way as to what it is and how it’s gaining ground in a B2C as well as a B2B environment. We also covered the main advantages of self-service, pretty much applicable to almost any self-service solution. Now it is time to focus on how self-service solutions are able to support in-house legal teams in addressing the previously mentioned challenges – based on three clear use cases.
Use case 1: Legal frontdoor
The legal team typically receives requests from the business in various ways, via email, phone and perhaps conversations either in-person or via a Teams call. Concluding, these requests come in rather unstructured – in most cases the legal needs to reach out to the person(s) whom initiated a request as not all required information has been provided. As a result, this costs valuable time and could lead to frustration for all the parties involved.
By offering a legal frontdoor, business users can interact with a set of services provided by the in-house legal team in a straightforward way, whenever they want. Depending on the type of request, the business user can be serviced right away. If involvement from someone from the legal team is required it’s possible to efficiently follow-up as all data is at hand immediately, without the need to communicate back and forth.
Use case 2: Contract generator
Contracts are often being created in various departments, for instance by Sales, HR and Legal. The contents of these contracts vary greatly, as policies, laws and regulations might be different per country or use case. Nevertheless, it is essential to create contracts that fit the needs of a business.
By offering a contract generator service, the legal team offers a very efficient way for business users to generate contracts in an easy and secure way. As the contract creator is being embedded in the user experience of the day-to-day business user, the legal team is able to support the business in a very straightforward manner.
Use case 3: Virtual assistant
Answering questions from the business sometimes requires deep knowledge of laws and regulations as well as an accurate understanding of the context of the request. A chatbot can be a great way for in-house legal to provide quick answers on frequently asked questions from the business. In addition, the input received can be used to further develop the knowledge management of the business.
To summarize, self-service can be a great way for in-house legal teams to streamline their services and demonstrate their value, while facing the challenges at hand. By deploying self-service solutions such as a legal frontdoor, contract generator and virtual assistant, in-house legal teams will be able to provide end-to-end service delivery that adds value not only for the legal team – but the company as a whole.
Getting started with self-service solutions for in-house legal teams
When starting out with self-service for in-house legal teams, there are several aspects that should be taken into account. Take a moment to consider the following:
Assess current situation & goals
Before starting out, it’s important to first understand the current situation and determine your ultimate goal. What would you like to achieve? What are your major pain-points? For example, do you have difficulty in managing contracts? Or perhaps you would like to have a better way of answering frequent requests. Understanding the current situation as well as the goals before starting out is key for successful deployment of self-service solutions.
Build the foundation
Before jumping into any technology, it’s important to take a step back and build the foundation first. This means that you set up the service model first and thereafter develop the technology that supports it. A best practice is to define the services you would like to provide, create a blueprint that shows how the new process should work and develop a technology layer that supports that process. This approach will ensure that your self-service solution is well-aligned with the services you offer – and the goals you want to accomplish.
Test & Iterate
Once you’ve built the foundation, it’s important to test out the developed technology layer. Your ultimate goal is to develop a self-service solution that works for the business – so it’s important that you test and iterate in order to improve the user experience.
Finally, keep in mind that self-service solutions require maintenance in order to keep them fully up-to-date and compliant with the latest laws & regulations. Also, it’s worthwhile to periodically check with relevant stakeholders if a self-service solution would need any adjustments – to ensure that they aligned with possible changes in the way business users work and the systems they work with.
First of all, thank you for reading our blog. We are more than happy to share our thoughts on digital business transformation topics, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter if you haven’t already.
At IRIS, we understand like no other that information is the source of every organization and therefor requires intelligent, future-proof solutions which meet the needs of organizations and their users. That’s why we successfully deliver information management solutions to enterprises and professional services firms for over 25 years now. Our team of certified information professionals has the experience and expertise to support you with digital transformation projects from start to finish, to drive long-term business value.
Our information management solutions to help our clients establish new ways of working are based on main 3 components:
Content services:get a grip on all data to gain value from your business content – and the information it withholds.
Privacy & Data Protection: protect your business, reputation, and your clients with robust technology without impacting the workflow of your team.
Workflow Automation: replace manual processes with automated ones to improve efficiency, reduce errors and costs, and increase consistency.
About the author
Jules KozakBusiness Development Executive
Demonstrating the Value of In-House Legal Through Self-Service