What is legal risk?
One of legal ops’ core functions is limiting legal risks and guaranteeing compliance. Legal risk exposure refers to the potential impact on an organization as a result of any failure to meet a legal obligation.
Risk, generally, is about uncertainty management as it pertains to your goals. An organization’s legal team is responsible for protecting the company from things like lawsuits and reputational damage, as well as overcoming any legal barriers to being able to do business. (These include risks that arise from integrating software platforms with a Salesforce instance for Legal Matter Management (LMM), for example, or a DocuSign instance for Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM).)
Some legal risk management tasks will be the domain of other business units, even though the general counsel (GC) or chief legal office (CLO) is ultimately responsible for them. Everyone in an organization should be concerned with reducing risk, though. Here’s how to do it.
1. Identify and define legal risks as they pertain to your organization
Every organization needs to identify and define the legal risks it faces, as well as the scope of those risks and any nuances germane to, for example, your geographic location. You need:
- A comprehensive taxonomy of risk vectors and types of legal risks germane to the organization
- A system for fielding comments and feedback from stakeholders across all business units
- A process for assigning risk factor ownership to the optimal business unit and mapping risks and responsibilities to strategic goals
Much of what’s described above has to do with certain types of intake and triage. A tool like Tonkean can help by automatically triaging incoming requests, wherever they come from. Tonkean is a process experience platform that wraps around your various systems, in part so you have a clearer view into what’s happening and can take action. It’s fully customizable by internal teams, so you won’t be slowed down by the need to rely on IT or dev teams to get started and create and customize your workflows, and you can see everything with Tonkean’s dashboards.
Oh, and using an AI-powered NLP module, Tonkean can automatically assess risk and route requests to the right party—or determine that a human needs to triage the request and route it accordingly.
2. Establish a framework for risk management and compliance
Some aspects of risk management will be the responsibility of business units outside of the legal department. A risk management framework ensures that the risks you identify and define will be assigned to the right people and processes.
- Identify who is responsible for which component of legal risk exposure
- Assess the risk management framework and define a defense model
- Educate and train all business units
Education and training within an organization can be like herding cats, but Tonkean LegalWorks lets you create a simple but powerful workflow for such a task. It can notify users (in any communication app they typically use, like Slack, Teams, or email) that they need to complete a training. It can automatically feed them the correct documents, too. From a centralized Tonkean dashboard, you can track who’s completed what without having to go bug everyone manually.
3. Create monitoring and reporting plans and procedures for risk and compliance
Once you have a risk management framework in place, you need a set of policies and procedures to evaluate how you’re faring in terms of legal risk exposure as well as a plan to address any threats that arise.
- Start with a data strategy that captures information about legal risk exposures
- Regular reporting presentation to authority (eg, risk assessment committee, audit committee, or board
- Ensure that following legal procedures and reporting issues is seamless and simple
Legal operations teams know that getting people to follow established legal procedures is difficult, to say the least. There’s just a lot of friction: There must be procedures in the first place, people have to know what they are, and the process for following has to be clear and simple. People take the path of least resistance; if it’s easier to follow your procedures than not, they will. The reverse is also true.
Tonkean solves that problem by making procedure adoption easy. It wraps around any apps you already have in your organization and connects them such that people can keep working wherever they already work. With an automated workflow set up, they can kick off a process from Slack, for example, and they’ll automatically receive the correct forms, and the right people will immediately be looped in. And it’s all tracked in Tonkean’s centralized dashboards.
4. Optimize and automate processes to ensure compliance
Technology use among legal departments has historically been relatively low, to the detriment of risk management. Technology can not only help track legal risk exposures, but by automating some tasks, it can remove risks that manual processes can introduce.
- Most of the core tasks of a legal department can be automated or aided by technology
- Automation has the side benefit of providing auditability to help your organization spot and solve problems that come up and better communicate with regulators
To mitigate risk and ensure that you’re compliant with regulatory requirements, you need to be able to track legal matters throughout your organization. Tonkean’s dashboards make that automatic and easy. Once you set up a workflow and kick it off, Tonkean tracks every step in the process, including who needs documents, who has signed what, who still needs to move a step forward, and so. That way, not only do you get full visibility into what's happening at any given time, all of those details are tracked so you can look back and make sure you’re compliant.