In-house Counsel Unite Follow up

As part of our Tech Transformation webinar series Andrew, Sonya and Lisa hosted three leading in-house practitioners for a panel discussion sharing tips, strategies and gems of wisdom from In-house Counsel operating in the trenches of tech transformation. 

Our three inspirational panel members were: Sarah White (GM Legal and Business Advisory, Xero), Julian Benefield (Associate General Counsel, Foodstuffs) and Michael Brick (Regional Director, Commercial Legal, Microsoft).

To frame up the discussion, the panel focused on five key questions:

  1. What role do you (as in-house legal counsel), play in the tech transformation journey for your business?
  2. Has your legal team been through its own tech transformation process and can you share any learnings?
  3. One of the major themes that often comes up when we discuss tech transformation, both for businesses and legal teams is project management:
  • Agile is a project management methodology that is extremely popular at the moment and it's popular at Xero, both in the wider business and within your legal team, can you speak about your experience on agile as a lawyer at Xero?
  • Microsoft has several project management tools as part of its software suite, and as a global legal team you are no doubt having to coordinate projects and people on a large scale - what are some of the methods you use?
  1. You regularly work with external lawyers, what do you look for and how can external lawyers best support you on tech transformation projects?
  2. What advice would you give to other in-house counsel about managing cyber security and associated risks?

We’ve pulled together the key messages from the session summarised below (illustrated and text).

In-house Counsel Unite - Mindmap
In-house Counsel Unite mindmap

Q1  The role of In-House Counsel in the tech transformation journey for the business

  • Align yourself to the business ensure you are able to pivot and change as business needs change. Bring a flexible and agile mindset and attitude, stay connected to your team.
  • Keep up to date with technology, don't be a passive recipient of technology itself - stay relevant. Consider how to provide better services to the business through the use of technology and how you can use technology to best support the transactions that the business is working on.
  • Have an established partnering model and maintain good working relationships. This will mean the business will feel able to bring the legal team in and get you involved early in those transformation projects. The model confirms that you actively add value (rather than being a tickbox at the end of the process). Show energy and genuine interest in what people do and a desire to understand the business and function.

Q2 Learnings from a Legal Team’s own tech transformation journey

  • Treat a legal tech transformation project like proper technology projects. Set out a really well documented project scope, be clear on your milestones, your deliverables and your dependencies. Everything you would consider and review as the lawyer involved in a tech project is relevant to your own tech transformation journey. 
  • A proof of concept or a trial is a useful approach to take to start the tech transformation journey. Be clear on scope, get your team together, get started, seek feedback and make improvements as you work through and start rolling out the solutions. Simplify things by breaking them down – adopt an iterative project management approach.
  • Look to actively harness legal technology, be aware that the transformation process and the associated behaviour changes are probably going to be more work than implementing the legal technology itself. Focus on progress over perfection.  
  • Look at internal platforms as well as external technology and be open-minded. Implementation of quick technology innovations or solutions can also have massive gains for a legal team over a long period.
  • Work collaboratively with the business units impacted by the technology and have clear communications and a way to deal with questions and issues when you're launching something. 

Q3A Project management – Is ‘Agile’ as a methodology appropriate for legal teams

  • Agile as a methodology is all about working with the Agile principles, use these to your advantage.
  • Adopting the agile methodology can bring more clarity around the work that is being done and brings much better transparency of that work to the team.
  • Agile also helps to bring accountability to both the team and individuals to identify specific goals, support each other, collaborate and prioritise work flows.

Q3B Project management – using tech-based project management tools

  • When considering tech-based project management tools, make sure you have the right technology to operate in a secure environment.
  • Ensure you are operating from a strong knowledge base and you understand what technology is available and what it does. As part of this, find out what technology you currently have and what you can use.
  • Use tools to enable all the different technologies in one place. At Microsoft, Teams is a great as it stitches together Outlook, SharePoint and you can instant message and also use Skype for Business.
  • Look at upskilling your team - review your tools and make certain that you know how to use them. If you don't, get someone to teach you.

 Q4 How external lawyers can best support you on tech transformation projects

  • Understand your client's ownership structure  in order to deliver the best and tailored advice.
  • Be flexible and adaptive and have a willingness to be open to the clients' way of working - become an extension of the legal team.
  • Be easy to work with. Communicate clearly on fees and timeframes and think about the delivery of your advice.
  • Understand your own technology and be familiar with your own systems and use this knowledge when talking with your clients.
  • Be open to trying new things, both from a technological perspective and about how you collaborate.
  • Be flexible to work with the team in different ways.

Q5 Management of cyber security and the associated risks

  • Make sure you have a good crisis management structure in place.
  • Adopt a leadership mindset in helping to prevent, navigate, investigate and remediate any sort of cyber security incident.
  • Dennis Garcia's blog, ‘In-house consigliere’ uses the acronym SECURE which is a useful way to remember the six key aspects of cyber security:
  • S is for supply.  Supply chain due diligence - make certain that the team is doing its supply chain due diligence that you at the end of the day are comfortable and trust what that it providers doing.
  • E is for educate – ensure you are trained, that your team is trained, that people across the company are trained in phishing attacks and password hygiene.
  • C is for certain - Make certain that you identify, what is the most important and maybe you protect that information more, whether it be certain IP that you have.
  • U is for Updates – Ensure you utilise updates provided and update on a timely basis.
  • R is for Readiness - practice for a cyber security attack, run a drill so everyone knows what they're supposed to do when an attack happens.
  • E is for Everybody - Everybody is responsible, as a lawyer and as inhouse counsel, you can play a very active and strong leadership role.

Huge thanks to Sarah, Julian and Michael for making the session so interesting and informative, we love what you do and really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and experiences with us.

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