Rolling Out Global Legal Ops Transformation Initiatives
You know you need to make major changes when you don’t have the ability to see or improve how legal services are being delivered across your global offices – the lack of a common system and practices impedes the acceleration and scaling needed to keep up with the pace of business.
So, you are embarking on a legal transformation initiative that is designed to harmonize legal ops global infrastructure and processes. And your strategy to improve efficiency and quality across the organization should be easily replicated in each region, right? Well, not necessarily. There may be different local requirements for good reason, and in any case effective change management practices include getting stakeholder buy-in so the proposed new ways of working will be adopted. Global standards, policies and procedures require local support and compliance. Here are guiding principles for rolling out operations initiatives globally.
Make the Case in Both Business and Professional Development Terms
It’s important to sell the initiative, because people who understand the “Why” are far more likely support the “What.” The business case often includes some of the following points:
- Reducing localized practices and workarounds will improve coordination and practice cohesion
- Moving away from compartmentalization paves the way for more collaboration and leveraging best practices across the global organization
- Improved visibility into a common set of operational metrics facilitates organization-wide accountability for continuous improvement and helps mitigate risk
- Global practice cohesion enhances the ability to cross-train, leverage colleagues and scale to meet ever growing demand for legal services
Additionally, the professional development case clearly must be tailored to the individuals or roles but can emphasize, as appropriate, cross-training, knowledge-sharing, and the opportunity to adopt effective, proven practices. The point is to clearly address the often-unstated question: “what is in it for me?”
Partner with Local Leaders and Adapt (within reason)
Even if there’s a mandate, the change can be handled in a collaborative, culturally sensitive fashion.
Acknowledge that one size does not fit all. Discuss the desired end state, as well as local challenges, cultural norms and preferences, and any applicable legal, regulatory, or financial requirements. Negotiate adjustments to the global model as appropriate to accommodate legitimate local nuances or requirements, which can include:
- Country-specific tax and reporting requirements
- Approval requirements that comply with country-specific anti-corruption laws
- Negotiation of new processes with unions or country-specific labor laws
- Local data privacy and protection requirements
- Special local compensation requirements (e.g. for inventions)
An additional element to adapt, if at all possible, is the timeline for the regional rollouts. There may be important timing considerations based on business needs and providing local leaders the opportunity to give input on when and how quickly to make the changes is a relatively easy way to give agency and increase buy-in across stakeholders.
Apply Good Governance
In a multinational structure, it makes sense to create a team structure comprising the operational leads for each region or local jurisdiction, not only during the planning and rollout phases, but also to keep operational practices aligned for the long term. The global team can provide mutual support in leading the transformation by “comparing notes” - what’s working, what needs adjustments, and what’s emerging as a best practice that others can quickly adopt. Cadence meetings that include rapport-building practices to foster camaraderie will contribute to the harmonization effort.
But it’s not all “fun and games.” To ensure continuing adherence to common standards and established policies and practices, while building in the ability to flex when deviations or changes are warranted, it’s important to have a formal governance mechanism to review and approve any requested adjustments to established policies and practices. The global legal transformation team can collaboratively set the review process and evaluation criteria and serve as the governing body, under clearly defined parameters and the GC’s executive sponsorship.
A global legal ops transformation strategy that features carefully considered flexibility to meet local needs, along with global governance structures and processes designed to foster resilience, will provide the organizational dynamics to accelerate innovation and transformation.