About the author

Aaron Pierce

Vice President & General Manager, LexisNexis CounselLink

4 Strategic Tips for General Counsel Working Remotely

By Aaron Pierce

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Before remote work became encouraged or enforced due to COVID-19, General Counsel (GC) conducted their work with virtual systems and processes. Many legal departments were already comfortable with Cloud-based file storage, collaboration, and matter management systems. Think of the virtual legal teams working in multiple jurisdictions. They are experts in ‘following the sun’ and offering legal guidance to the business in various time zones. 

If you’re a GC reading this, you probably have your remote working conditions well established in your legal department, and things are ticking along nicely. But as we begin to move beyond the current circumstances, these four tips will help your legal department look forward to more strategic and better ways of doing business.

1. Protect client and vendor data 

The threat of an internal or external data breach is a liability for all organizations. Remote working conditions exacerbate the danger by introducing more variables into the work environment. Legal departments managing trade secrets and confidential client information have an ethical duty to secure this information from unauthorized and inadvertent exposure. The Director of Aon’s Cyber Solutions Group, Chris McLaughlin, spoke to Thomson Reuters recently, alerting GCs to virtual workplace risks. 

We know that threat actors are actively targeting individuals at home. They target virtual private networks to try and get access to corporate systems, and some organizations have had their physical premises broken into,” said Chris. 

With sophisticated global cyber-attacks occurring regularly, here are two measures you’ll want to revisit, should a policy or operational process need updating: 

  • Safe and secure file sharing: Basic email attachments are risky when sharing files and spreadsheets with sensitive or confidential information. Cloud-based collaboration platforms can help your organization implement best-practices and a more connected culture as they enable users, internal and external, to quickly and securely share vast amounts of information.
  • Data breach response preparedness: Do you have a response plan if your legal team or someone in your organization reports a data breach? GCs must establish policies and procedures for their legal department to manage the situation as soon as a breach occurs and to mitigate additional data breaches in the aftermath. Be mindful of the organization’s legal responsibilities in your jurisdiction when a data breach occurs. For example, all 50 states have adopted data breach notification statutes, many with sector-specific provisions. Requirements vary widely, and there is no federal-level statute.

2. Generate advanced matter and spend analytics

COVID-19 has had an impact on legal spending in some regions more than others. The 2020 edition of the Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index from Thomson Reuters found a slight trend towards increasing budgets in the US, with 22% of respondents seeing a budget decrease and 32% reporting a budget increase in the last twelve months.

Legal departments are often seen as cost centers rather than strategic partners and are always under pressure to demonstrate their value to the broader organization, usually by focusing on efficiency. Suppose you’re looking to be more strategic on your legal spend for the business. In that case, the ability to report back to your stakeholders with advanced spend and matter management analytics is a must. 

If you don’t have a dedicated matter management platform, it may be time to build a business case for one. An effective matter management platform provides you with the transparency you need to control your department’s outside counsel legal spend and the clarity your executive team requires. Matter management analytics can drive better decisions and reduce your department’s overall costs.

3. Streamline contract creation and management 

Automating legal contracts and documents is a game-changer to those familiar with the innovative practice. A contract management system customized to your needs can connect your legal team with the rest of the business. This strategic technology can reduce the burden on your lawyers for guidance on minor matters so that they can spend more time on higher-level work. 

Platform solutions provide the building blocks to deliver multiple legal and business solutions in a unified user experience. They enable you to automate contract creation and approval, identify and manage risk, and monitor obligations and compliance through one central hub. And as the business grows and evolves, it’s easy to adapt and scale a platform to accommodate new processes.

4. Champion internal and external communication

As a strategic legal adviser to your organization, responsive communication is essential. Suppose you are a leader of your legal team, such as the GC or Legal Operations Director. In this case, a strategic move could foster an internal culture of knowledge-sharing and thought leadership. You can achieve this through platform solutions that offer a complete digital workplace for your organization, giving users a better way to collaborate, communicate, and connect with their team.

Championing innovative communication with your law firm advisers is beneficial, too. For example, if you have an urgent legal matter and need to call in external counsel for expert advice, you want to submit the brief to them effectively and fast. 

Seamless collaboration and communication are inherent in platform solutions. You can work on shared files and act fast on legal matters that require you and your adviser’s urgent attention. Look for an adviser that is just as innovative as you, so you can work together to handle complex legal issues that arise when needed. 

Features like these help gain stakeholder buy-in for legal technology because cloud-based platforms have dozens of use-cases not only for your legal team but also for marketing departments and human resources.

With these four strategic, in-house tips now on your radar, which one resonates with you? Find out more about how you can build your virtual workplace through a connected legal hub with Thomson Reuters.