How has your company’s international expansion impacted legal operations?
International expansion is always a challenge. Especially when you are working for a high-growth tech company where often, by the time that the business has decided to enter a new market, they want to get boots on the ground tomorrow. That means the legal team needs to be proactive in discussing upcoming potential expansion with the relevant business units, so we have enough lead time to put the right relationships and infrastructure in place and to ferret out for the company whether there are any legal blockers or challenges with a proposed new market. Once boots are on the ground, it’s about learning to serve a new market and a distinct culture of employees as an internal service org. One of the first things we do in a new market is seek out nimble, experienced (but reasonably priced) local counsel(s), who can help us ensure compliance with local laws, localize our forms, and generally advise as issues arise in each country. Over time we have learned that what may work from a legal ops standpoint in the U.S. or similar countries, like Canada and Australia, may not work as well for vastly different markets, like Mexico. It’s about constantly iterating so that we can run as fast as the business needs us to, while leaning on local counsel as our partners to help bring us up to speed on local compliance.
What is the role of legal operations in partnering with the various departments in the business that may intersect with the legal team?
The role of legal ops is to ensure that legal can be as efficient as possible in serving the company’s business units. For example, at Procore, we have tried to stand up as much self-service legal as we can for things like sponsorship agreements and NDAs, where there doesn’t always have to be a high touch (or any touch, if the right systems and parameters are in place) from the legal team. That allows us to free up our resources for issues that require more legal involvement. We worked hard to develop a reputation as being highly responsive and not being a bottleneck, and the legal ops function is critical to that effort. The net result is that we’ve developed a high level of trust and partnership with the business units, and so they bring us on early and often, making our jobs infinitely easier. We also have a small legal team, and everyone wears many hats. Legal ops regularly interacts with the business units and is not siloed off from the rest of the company, only serving the legal department. I do think this is an advantage as the legal ops function is tapped into the greater company culture.
What are some ways the legal operations department can demonstrate value to the C-suite and influence overall business strategy?
A good legal ops function is crucial for a legal team overall to be less of a cost center and more of a business driver. Legal ops keep teams lean. We don’t have extra bodies doing little more than pushing paper. We leverage software solutions and intelligent processes to ensure that current forms, for example, are always being used throughout the company, or that legal always reviews the contracts it should with external parties, thus reducing overall legal risks. We then also use those software solutions and other automated processes to provide metrics and data on the legal team’s impact. This is a very challenging thing for a legal department to do as, generally speaking, a lot of our value is in preventing bad things from happening, and it’s quite hard to track your success when the desired result is nothing happening. But things like tracking the insertion of ‘full or partial refund on termination’ provisions, and then the resulting dollars we’ve been able to recapture as a result of those provisions being inserted in our vendor agreements, is one small example of how we can prove our value through legal ops and data.