Virtual Roundtable: Legal Ops & Innovation

Legal Ops & Innovation Roundtable

On Thursday, August 12, 2021, BRYTER held a roundtable on Legal Ops and Innovations that was organized jointly with the team of the Bucerius Center on the Legal Profession.

Gabriel Bärenz, Senior Legal Counsel at ING DiBa, reported on experiences in the use of technology in the legal department of a global financial institution. Alongside Achim Tschauder, Program Director of the Bucerius Legal Operations Campus, and Michael Grupp, CEO and Founder at BRYTER, the three discussed opportunities in the field of legal ops and innovation. This was the second part of the roundtable series and was well received by participants.

To start, Achim Tschauder introduced the background of Legal Operations, including its roots in tech giants such as Facebook, NetSuite and IBM. In modern companies, legal departments feel pressure to become more modern and scalable in their important performance indicators, e.g. the availability of data, the automation of processes, and the measurability of KPIs, as well staff management and the delivery of services.

A big driver of modernization in legal departments has been new technology, both as support for collaboration and communication, but also as a requirement for measurement and tracking. Companies want end-to-end solutions, so extensibility and integrations (open APIs) have become an important factor in the process of selecting a tool. With today’s focus on processes and workflows, workflow automation is also an increasingly important element in Legal Operations and generally a big topic for innovation in the legal industry.

The subject of the roundtable that was discussed next was the two clear trends that are currently identifiable in both the US and the EU. The first trend is the embedding of in-house legal practice services for internal departments. In the past, services were provided by legal and compliance departments in a highly customized, individualized, and disorganized manner. This required legal counsel and compliance officers to provide advice (and services) manually, and always on a case-by-case basis.

This is now changing: it is increasingly important that services are not delivered “in the legal department,” but in the business units directly where the decision is made, in that moment, within the team. This requires services to be available as independent solutions: They must be available digitally, and ideally be embedded not only in the business units, but even in the technological environment and the company’s workflows, so staff can use them as a self-service solution. This is only possible for very frequent service requests, but there are many use cases where this is the case, from document creation to repetitive compliance/legal requirements.

The second trend is a direct consequence of the first and involves unbundling and repackaging. For services to be embedded and available, they need to be transformed into products by being packaged and clearly defined. Increasingly, there is a movement from individual consulting to bundled solutions and even apps. There are many examples of companies running an app store in their legal teams with solutions that can be accessed directly in the line of business: for example, the creation of documents in sales departments. There are also instances of these packaged solutions being available in the workflow itself, so that they can be accessed, used, and measured directly in the process.

Three tools to implement innovation

Gabriel Bärenz, Senior Legal Counsel at ING DiBa, also talked about his experience as Legal Operations Manager and the introduction, rollout and management of interactive solutions at ING. As leader of the innovation process of the approx. 60-member ING legal department (the bank’s legal service center), he has worked to find and evaluate solutions, roll them out, and ensure adoption and integration within the team. He described how he has seen the market change: In recent years there has been a demand for a faster pace of innovation, and the bank and their legal department have also seen the need to be closer to the customer, both inside and outside the bank.

Gabriel explained the three core areas of innovation that are being used most actively and effectively at ING:

1. A wiki to share legal knowledge: The wiki serves as a knowledge hub for all information that arises regularly and is needed further. The goal of the wiki is to quickly and easily capture information that was previously lost because it was not documented and make it available to all employees—in particular, information that is not always contained in documents, like ‘how to’ information and references. The legal wiki was built using Confluence (an Atlas product) and is easily scalable. The team chose Confluence because it was already available as a tool within ING’s infrastructure, so there was no need to buy a new tool and run through the procurement processes.

2. BRYTER: ING’s legal department uses several digital self-service apps built on BRYTER no-code platform, most notably customer intake tools (ING calls it “Matter Management”). These tools allow professionals in the legal and compliance team to gather information from their colleagues. There used to be a lot of requests coming in through all sorts of channels, from phone to email to face-to-face contact. Not only did this result in a lot of requests that had to be sorted, but it also meant that measuring and processing the requests was cumbersome and the level of service in the company was not ideal, as people in the company often did not know how to reach the legal department.

This resulted in the legal department being perceived as slow (or at least difficult to reach), and it created more work in the legal department to resolve, sort, respond, and measure issues. By implementing “Matter Management” as the front door, the team can easily streamline and sort requests and generally respond faster. This introduces a higher level of service. BRYTER also allows ING to integrate other services into the workflow, such as databases or other self-service requests.

3. A Kanban solution for project management: The Kanban solution allows the team to manage projects more effectively, because previously projects were managed individually or in the classic waterfall method. With Kanban, Gabriel has introduced an easy-to-use method to manage tasks and projects and track their status. The primary benefit of this for the company: Transparency, because everyone can see project tasks and the status of each. This started as an offline solution on a whiteboard and was transformed into a digital solution through Covid and the resulting remote work. Now, all employees have access even in the home office, and can work effectively on joint projects. What is particularly interesting about this is that tasks from ING’s “Matter Management” Tool, i.e. the Intake Tool based on BRYTER, can be integrated directly into the Kanban Board.

Identifying the right toolchain

Gabriel emphasized that teams don’t always have to buy new applications to modernize. For many requirements in the legal team, existing technology such as Microsoft, Atlassian or solutions from other teams can be used. Starting with tools that are already available always has the advantage that projects can be implemented more quickly, because time, resources and budgets need not be activated to buy the tools first.

Once initial success has been demonstrated with existing tools, partners and budget holders can be convinced more quickly to provide further resources, including for any new tools, as they have already become familiar with the benefits of the innovation processes in this area. For example, BRYTER was only purchased as an additional tool because its functions were not available in other tools. “Start with the low hanging fruits,” Gabriel said. “Small steps lead to the goal. Use existing resources and tools. Rapid initial successes motivate innovation drivers, and the skeptics see that something is happening and are more likely to join in.”

Finally, there was an ongoing discussion in the panel moderated by BRYTER CEO Michael Grupp; the audience actively contributed to the discussion with their questions. The panel agreed that services need to be digitized, structured and become more easily available to the staff that needs them. Perhaps the main takeaway was that change is really here to stay. Whereas in recent years, discussion around modernization was all talk and conceptualization, there are now tangible and—thanks to tech tools—measurable benefits that have changed entire process chains, roles within teams, and even the way collaboration is thought of and implemented.

We are looking forward to the third part of the series and thank the participants, the audience and the organizers for making the event a success.

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