PLENTY OF PEOPLE HAVE PRECONCEIVEDnotions of lawyers and routinely usewords like: “slow,” “risk averse,” “analysisparalysis” and “stuck in legal.” This is allwrong! My kind of lawyers and contractsnegotiators have a need for speed, notsettling for what merely has always beendone, but helping their business teamsfocus on the problems to be solved anddeals to be won.
Early in my in-house career, I madeit a personal mission to improve thereputation of the contracts team withinmy organization. Why? Without a goodreputation, the team would be unableto influence and collaborate successfully. Unsurprisingly, I found the lack oftransparency in the contract process wasenabling some in the business to claimcontracts were “stuck in legal,” whichcontributed to branding the contractsteam with a certain reputation. The moreI learned about the contracts process,the more it became clear that contractsweren’t actually “stuck in legal”; the reality was that the cross-functional process ofclosing a deal was broken. I needed to finda way to bring sunlight to the contractsprocess, to improve the team’s moraleand reputation, and also to strengthenthe cross-functional team and programas a whole to achieve our business goalswith speed.
Here are three repeatable moves Imade to enhance the reputation of thecontracts team in my organizations.
‘STUCK IN LEGAL’ ARE OFF-LIMIT WORDS
Everyone has heard, “it’s stuck in legal.”
I have found these are easy words to use,
but are often not true. And if these words
are used, through the use of third-party
tools, I can now show everyone where
the contract is really stuck. For example,
I’d routinely find contracts stuck with
sales, because a sales manager neglected
to address a substantive business issue, or
with finance because the accounting team
is trying to address specialized revenue
recognition terms, or with engineer-
ing, because the customer wants custom
development that was promised by sales.
No one wants to be holding up thecontract—the longer it takes to sign,the longer it takes to get the product incustomer hands. It’s the responsibility ofthe contracts team to figure out how toimprove the contract management process, move paper faster, and be able toprovide insight into where the contract isat any point in time. The contracts teammust demonstrate their ability to be greatbusiness partners.
So how did I remove “stuck in legal”
from my company vocabulary? By identi-
fying a tool that gives key stakeholders full
visibility into the contract management
process. In many organizations, contracts
are under the direct purview of legal—and
legal alone knows where things are within
this process. Transparency helps hold
every stakeholder accountable.
As soon as the contracts team was ableto provide transparency to the process,we could hold the right people accountable for delays, and remove the words “it’sstuck in legal” from everyone’s vocabulary.
TURNING TRANSPARENCY INTO INSIGHTWe have dozens of cross-functional stakeholders provisioned on our contract management system, LinkSquares, which is atool for contract automation and Google-like search to make our contracts usefulto us. The goal is for the contracts teamto be able to utilize a full suite of func-tionality from turnkey contract creationthrough end-stage contract management.No matter what stage the contract is, weknow exactly where it is, what its statusis and what details the contract contains.
And, while this is a product identified and managed by the contracts team,Linksquares is useful to any team thattouches contracts at any point duringtheir lifecycle.
RID YOUR COMPANY OF THE WORDS ‘STUCK IN LEGAL’
BY DANIELLE SHEER