Legal Ops Digest Issue 5: How To Innovate In An Industry Resistant To Change

May 15, 2024
May 15, 2024
min read
Legal Ops Digest Issue 5: How To Innovate In An Industry Resistant To Change

This is a preview of Legal Ops Digest, our newsletter for procurement professionals. Subscribe and receive these newsletters in your inbox every month!

Legal can be resistant to change. 

It’s not because lawyers are lazy. Rather, they’re focused on compliance and risk management. According to the 2023 State of the Corporate Law Department report from the Thomson Reuters Institute, this has only become truer as regulatory complexity grows. In this climate, Legal sees itself as “guardians of the enterprise.”

This is by and large as it should be, but it has downstream consequences on those parts of the organization charged with finding new ways of enabling lawyers to do their job better and with even greater focus—specifically, Legal Ops. 

This presents a bit of a paradox, which is hardly unique to Legal Ops, but in fact complicates every internal service team in the enterprise whose job it is to empower and support other functions. You need to innovate, because the problems you’re charged with solving—be they related to time, cost, technology, finding a way to collaborate with other departments for approvals and input more seamlessly—are complicated and evolving all the time. Plus, solving them, such that your organization can perform and operate more efficiently and productively at scale, is increasingly a competitive necessity.

But how do you do innovate to such ends when the stakeholders you’re innovating for are skeptical of change?

There are, it turns out, a few proven ways, according to experts on the matter from such organizations as UnitedLex, Workday, and Buying Legal Council. 

Step 1: Put people first

All internal stakeholders, even those whose job it is to be skeptical of innovation and change, are more amenable to new technology investments and process improvements when those efforts are grounded foremost in a push to better serve humans—and to solve preeminently human problems.

This is less obvious than it might seem. Knowledge workers and more forward-thinking enterprises, especially, sometimes innovate for technology’s sake—because the tool in question is shiny and seems cool. Or they invest in new tools and processes out of the promise of new data. 

This is the type of innovation Legal teams are rightfully skeptical of—it's like souping up an old car with oversized rims, chrome accents, and thunderous exhaust systems. 

Technology, of course, remains critical. As Jenn McCarron, the president of CLOC, wrote recently in a blog, “Legal Ops should be centered around technology… [because] If you don’t have the technology function budget and team empowerment to build, develop, launch, maintain, and iterate—a.k.a. run the software development lifecycle—then you’re not transforming.”

But neither new technology investments nor process improvements should ever preeminently be about the technology itself. That’s not what creates business value internally, and such investments often result in humans working for the new technology in ways they didn’t anticipate or otherwise don’t want to do. 

Instead, the point should be empowering people and making people’s lives easier, safely. The new investments should work, instead for people. 

(As Jenn also wrote in that blog, “Technology and data are the fuel and the engines, not the destination.”)

When they obviously do, that’s an easier sell. As Aaron Crews, the chief product and innovation officer at UnitedLex, said recently in an interview with ABA Journal, innovation is “a human-centered enterprise first and a technology-centered enterprise second.” 

“Strong innovation initiatives highlight the source of friction and what limits professionals from performing sophisticated, strategically important work. Innovation directed at practical problems that examine how work in a particular practice gets done and how you can either take friction out or add value is essential.”

Advice: get specific about the human benefit. 

This will also steer you towards the most achievable and ultimately productive kind of innovation—the sort that empowers people to do their job better, but, importantly, doesn’t force them to change their behavior in ways they don’t want or need to.

In Legal, especially, that’s crucial. And, we should note, welcome. For as much as in-house Legal teams are focused on risk, increasingly, they also see the need to level-up through innovation. As was reported in the 2024 State of the Corporate Law Department report, thanks in part to unavoidable advancements in technologies such as AI, “today’s corporate law departments” are increasingly investing in “four key areas of focus: effectively advising the business; efficiently performing their functions; enabling the growth of the business; and protecting the business from risk.” For which they need Legal Ops’ help.

Step 2. Start small, build up wins. 

The next practical step is to earn trust in your own ability to safely, effectively innovate within the confines and context of your internal function. But how can you do that?

That was the subject of a recent conversation between Sagi Eliyahu, co-founder and CEO of Tonkean, and Jason Winmill, Chair of the Buying Legal Council and Managing Partner of Argopoint.

The conversation was about “decoding the DNA of Legal innovation.” 

Jason counseled folks working within legal operations to “start small, and build up a track record of projects that can be counted as wins.”

In doing so, you can “foster innovation over time.” 

This is especially valuable advice in a world where employees are resistant to changing their own behavior, or adopting new systems all at once. 

Incremental progress can be meaningful progress, and the trust it builds compounds over time. 

Step 3. Make it easy

This one can’t be stressed enough. Process improvements are much easier to consider and take seriously when the felt impact of them, for stakeholders, is purely positive and frictionless. 

Take, for example, the Legal Ops department at Workday. Last year, they came to us for help simplifying legal matter intake. The Workday Legal Ops team was creating matters entirely manually, and adoption of prescribed intake processes was intractably low.  

The process was complicated by lots of low-risk, high-volume tasks that were coming in via disparate intake channels—and encumbering the work of everyone who came into contact with them, including lawyers downstream. 

That's where Tonkean came in. Workday’s Legal Ops team was able to automate the process of triaging those tasks, unify those channels, and solve their adoption problem almost entirely using Tonkean Intake Orchestration.

This isn’t a Tonkean pitch. What mattered here was the simple fact, which can be easy to overlook in conversations like this, that the improved process could be easily considered “improved” primarily because it felt improved. 

“Tonkean allows us to meet employees where they’re at, intelligently sort requests, and automate actions on them after they’ve come in,” Kenny Trinh, who leads Workday’s Legal Automation Group. 

Next up, Kenny's working to leverage Tonkean’s AI Front Door to make “Submitting intake or updating policies even easier.” 

(Want to read the case study in full? Better yet, want to watch Kenny break down how they use Tonkean at Workday step-by-step? Find the feature-length case study + webinar here.)

Why does all this matter? 

The above lessons are transferable across all manner of internal service organizations. And they’re important to pay attention to no matter if you’re in Legal—or Procurement, or IT, or ops. 

Processes that are allowed to stagnate and become convoluted over time become far too slow and cumbersome to remain effective. They end up needing lots of manual work just to keep them going. Which is a self-reinforcing cycle. More back and forth = more work + slower cycle times… which = even more back and forth… and so on. 

Internal teams can’t move with the speed and agility and courage they need in such circumstances. It’s crucial, for your own success and performance internally as well as for your ability to create organization-impacting business value more broadly, to break that cycle. 

The above steps will help—as will, we think, a deeper dive into the conversation with Jason, which we link to below. But first: The latest news from around the industry.

The Latest in Legal Ops

  • “The Space Age of Legal Ops,” from Jenn McCarron, president of CLOC. Read the blog here. | CLOC
  • Where law firms and legal departments are succeeding with innovation | ABA Journal 
  • Legal Technologists vs. Legal Ops Pros: What's the Difference and Why it Matters? Read the piece here. | The Digital Lawyer 
  • Tonkean LegalWorks was recently named one of the Best Legal Tech solutions of 2024 in the second annual LegalTech TAM Awards. The awards are handed out by Theorem LTS, collaboration with CLOC, ACC, ELTA, and other such groups, in "recognition of the best and brightest in legal technology, from exceptional companies to cutting-edge solutions and products." LegalWorks was recognized in the "no-code automation software" category. Read more about the award here. | CLOC
  • The 2024 State of the Corporate Law Department report is out. Read it here.  | Thomson Reuters
  • CLOC Global Institute 2024 was a resounding success. A week of killer sessions from the industry’s best and brightest, along with an inspiring service project (sponsored by Tonkean, put on by CLOC Cares), galvanized the Legal Ops community once again. Read more about the service project below, and see pictures from the conference here, here, and here. | CLOC
  • Last month, Tonkean released Collaborative Intake, a new suite of capabilities enabling cross-functional, in-workflow collaboration and engagement across every step of the entire intake lifecycle, from intent through resolution. Read more about the release here. | Tonkean

If you have some insightful news or knowledge about the world of Ops to share, let us know!

Legal Ops in the Field

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) concluded its annual CLOC Global Institute (CGI) at the ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

The conference was a great success. We know for our part that we had hundreds of inspiring, insightful conversations with Legal Ops pros from across the field, and CLOC, as always, put on invaluable sessions and keynotes. CLOC President Jenn McCarron unveiled the concept of Legal Ops 3.0. Andrew Perlman, Dean of Suffolk University Law School and a leading authority on law and AI, delivered a rousing keynote. 

Tonkean, a long-time CLOC sponsor and partner, did something a bit different this year. We sponsored & participated in CLOC Cares.

Together with the CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) community we got to work in support of Three Square Food Bank, a Las Vegas-based charity dedicated to fighting hunger. 

It was an incredible, inspiring experience—and productive, too. 

🥙 836 meals prepared
🥗 18,000 pounds of cabbage 
🥦 400 bags of produce 
✔️ 351 shelf groceries for families in need

We're so grateful to CLOC for letting us help put this on. It was an opportunity for CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) Global Institute attendees to give back to the local community in a meaningful way.

Check out some pictures of the service project below, and read more here.

Getting ready for the service project
Dante and Marcus on the bus to CLOC Cares!
Hard at work!

Know of any other service events in the Legal Ops world that we should highlight in the next newsletter? Let us know and we’ll share! And as always tell us about clever solutions and success stories you want your Ops peers to know about for future newsletters!

Modern Business Operations

On this episode of Modern Business Operations, host & Tonkean co-founder Sagi Eliyahu sits down w/ Jason Winmill, Chair of the Buying Legal Council and Managing Partner of Argopoint.

They discuss how customers—both inside legal and out—are like oxygen for a business.

As we mentioned above, they also touched on how Legal Ops organizations can foster innovation within their organizations, even when the culture might not be super conducive to it. 

"Start small,” Jason suggests. “Build up wins. Change over time."

If you're in legal or Legal Ops, you don't want to miss it.

Other key takeaways:

(03:40) Aligning legal operations with business strategies.

(06:17) Recombination as a fundamental concept in innovation.

(10:16) Collaboration versus isolation in competitive business environments.

(13:15) Initiating small collaborative projects between legal and procurement.

(16:43) Overcoming change resistance in legal departments.

(17:30) Cost management through alternative fee arrangements.

(18:14) Long-term learning commitments in legal departments.

(19:06) Adaptive changes in procurement due to global disruptions.

(20:09) Potential impact of AI on legal departments.

(22:17) Viewing businesses as adaptive organisms in ecosystems.

(25:14) The importance of networking and information gathering.

(26:12) The crucial role of delivering value for departmental survival.

(27:08) The impact of consistent presence on professional success.

Find the full episode here, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Subscribe to the Modern Business Operations podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Maestro's Minutes

Here’s everything we did in the most recent Tonkean release notes

Module Builder

  • Add action buttons to Rich Text widgets - You can now include action buttons on rich text widgets, enabling users to click into a request, order form, or other submission and edit the values if needed. This option is especially helpful when displaying a summary of a user's request; users can now reopen that request interface and edit values on the fly before submitting, ensuring the correct information is submitted.
  • Add subtitles to dropdown field options - In addition to the values set in a dropdown field, you can now add descriptions for each value. These descriptions display directly below the main value and are included in searches in the dropdown field.
  • To add descriptions to dropdown values, simply include the description after the value, wrapped in three backticks (for example, ```value description```).

Custom Item Interfaces and Workspace Apps

  • Collaborate with comments across multiple modules - The Comments widget now has an option to include comments from all matched items, allowing you to better collaborate in workflows that span multiple modules.
  • Aggregate values in the Detailed Items widget - Rather than create dedicated aggregation fields to process data in the background, we've added the ability to aggregate values in real-time in the Detailed Items widget. Users can now see sums, counts, averages, and other functions performed on aggregated values in an item interface. This feature addresses a common need in procurement use cases to display a running total of line item counts or costs as the user adds and updates line items.

There are also now aggregation options to show the Min or Max of date values—especially helpful to easily identify the start and end dates of contracts.

  • Minimum and maximum line items in the Detailed Items widget - In the same way you can set minimum and maximum numbers of line items in the Line Items widget, you can now set the same values for the Detailed Items widget.
  • Apply validation to drill-down interfaces - Previously, the validation you configured for the parent item and its interface was not applied to inner items and their drill-down interfaces. Now, those same validation rules from the parent item interface are checked on drill-down interfaces, ensuring that your desired workflow logic and input rules are followed in the sub-processes contained with a larger workflow.
  • Set initial values in the Line Items widget - You can now set initial values for specific fields in the Line Items widget. This new feature improves the requester experience by prepopulating select fields with common or expected values, reducing the number of fields requesters must complete to submit their request.

Board Settings Theme

  • Admins can now add a cover logo to their Tonkean homepage, designating a logo specifically for the homepage while retaining a more generic logo for use elsewhere in the board—for example, in the custom interfaces and workspace apps. Set your homepage cover logo in the Board Settings.

Enterprise Components

You can now integrate the following new data sources with your Tonkean solutions:

  • LawVu - The in-house legal workspace system. Use this data source to augment your legal workflows.
  • Currency API - The popular exchange rate conversion service.
  • nuIT - The platform-independent solution for metal trim creation, including machine networking and process optimization features.
  • Sage Intacct - The cloud-based ERP system that manages financials, accounting, compliance, procurement, supply chain, automates processes, and has in-depth reporting and business intelligence.
  • SuiteCRM (API 4.1) - The open-source Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solution.

Bug Fixes

  • Navigation was not displaying in some item interfaces.
  • Entity collection for Ironclad data sources was not working as expected.
  • In connected SharePoint data sources, some users found that saving the configuration without making any changes was resetting the config back to its default state.
  • When opening an item interface from the AI Front Door, the interface was not populated with values provided by the user through the Front Door.
  • The Business Groups screen was displaying an inconsistent list of group members across different areas of the configuration area.
  • Some action buttons were not having the global theme color correctly applied.

Thanks for checking out Legal Ops Digest! To learn more about who Tonkean is or what we do, sign up for a demo.

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