4 Strategic Tips for Legal Counsel Working Remotely

Legal counsel are used to conducting their work with virtual systems and processes in place. Before remote work became encouraged or enforced due to COVID-19, many legal departments were already comfortable with file storage, collaboration and matter management for the most part. Think of all the virtual legal teams that cover multiple jurisdictions. They are experts in ‘following the sun’ and offer legal guidance to the business across multiple time zones, liaising with each other in between. 

If you’re a corporate counsel reading this, you probably have your remote working conditions well established in your legal department, and things are ticking along nicely. But during the global health crisis (and as we inch closer to recovery), how can you refine your level of business engagement in H2 of 2020? 

After hearing from corporate counsel and executives who’ve implemented HighQ for their legal department or business, we’ve outlined four tips to consider. Use them to help fill gaps strategically so you can power through with the business buy-in you need.

1. Protect client and vendor data 

The threat of an internal or external data breach is a liability for all organisations, especially during remote working conditions where there are more variables. It’s important for legal departments to manage trade secrets and business confidentiality securely. Director at Cyber Solutions Group, Aon, Chris McLaughlin, spoke on a cyber security webinar recently warning legal counsel about virtual workplace risks. 

“We know that threat actors are actively targeting individuals at home. They target virtual private networks in order to try and get access to corporate systems, and some organisations have actually had their physical premises broken into,” said Chris. 

With sophisticated global cyber-attacks occurring regularly, here are two measures you’ll want to revisit, should a policy or operational process need updating: 

  • Safe and secure file sharing: Basic email attachments are risky when it comes to sharing files and spreadsheets with sensitive or confidential information. If your organisation has implemented a cloud-based collaboration tool such as HighQ, you’ll find it easy to work with best-practice. HighQ’s My Files feature enables its users to share vast sums of information, even if they’re not a member of your project team or site. 
  • Data breach response preparedness: What is your contingency plan if your legal team or someone in your organisation reports a data breach? It is really important for General Counsel to have policies and procedures in place to manage the situation as soon as it happens, without escalation into further breaches. Be mindful of the data breach legal responsibilities in your jurisdiction. For example, Australian legal counsel must report incidents that qualify to authorities and have a data breach response plan in place, as the first 24 hours are crucial to contain the breach. 

2. Generate advanced analytics on legal spend

COVID-19 has had an impact on legal spend in some regions more than others. But for our Asia-Pacific readers, we have some good news for you. In a July 2020 forecast by Acritas, the market research provider, General Counsel in the Asia-Pacific are reported as being more optimistic compared to the US and UK. In the UK, for example, 56% of GCs expect a reduction in their legal spend this year, compared to only 23% in the Asia-Pacific.

But we all know that legal departments are not revenue-generators and are constantly under pressure to demonstrate where they are providing value through saving costs. If you’re looking to be more strategic on your legal spend for the business, the ability to report back to your stakeholders with advanced analytics is a must. Many legal operations specialists run their matter management and set up advanced analytics on their legal spend through HighQ.

If you don’t have a platform solution such as HighQ, it may be time to build a business case for one. Once you have an effective tech solution in place, it will enable you to justify the funds that your legal department is using and for what. Then you can cut down on funds being wasted and report back on what you’ve trimmed through the strategic levers you have pulled. 

3. Streamline document automation 

Automating legal contracts and documents is a game-changer to those familiar with the innovative practice. However, even the legal teams who have built up automated contracts and legal documents over the years may be due for an upgrade. A customised document management system can be rolled out to your legal team and for the rest of the business to use. This strategic choice can reduce the burden on your legal guidance for minor matters, so you can spend more time on higher-level work. 

HighQ is an open API platform has the ability to integrate with Contract Express, also part of Thomson Reuters’ suite of solutions. Depending on your needs, there’s also the option to utilise HighQ’s in-built document automation software, so you can achieve the level of automation you are looking for. The implementation process is quicker and easier than you think and usually done 100% virtually, with Thomson Reuters specialists there to support and guide you along the way. 

4. Champion internal and external communication

As a strategic legal adviser to your organisation, responsive communication is a must. If you are a leader of your legal team, such as the Head of Legal or General Counsel, a strategic move could be to foster an internal culture of knowledge-sharing and thought leadership. You can achieve this through private networking groups managed by the programs implemented within your organisation, such as HighQ’s flexible intranet capabilities where users can ‘micro blog’ and network. 

Championing innovative communication with your law firm advisers is beneficial, too. For example, if you have an urgent legal matter and need to call in external counsel for specialised advice, you want to submit the brief to them effectively and fast. 

With a platform like HighQ, seamless collaboration and communication is a given, where you can work on shared files and act fast on legal matters that require you and your adviser’s urgent attention. Look for an adviser that is just as innovative as you, so you can work together to handle complex legal issues that arise when needed. 

Speaking of external vendors, your organisation’s client executives may even like to utilise the HighQ publisher function, which enables you to build external-facing websites without software developers. To use a real-life example, global professional services firm, GHD, has found success in this. GHD provides expertise to clients across five sectors, through more than 200 offices and spread across five continents. As Jamie Blair, Executive Advisor explained:

“We eventually selected HighQ for its breadth and flexibility. We now have the ability to combine task and information management with customisable digital content management and publishing, all within one platform.”

“HighQ has significantly broadened the technologies we can harness for the ultimate goal of enhancing the client experience and will continue to do so.”

Jamie Blair, Executive Advisor, GHD

It’s features like these which really help gain buy-in for a legal technology from your stakeholders, because cloud-based platforms like HighQ have dozens of use-cases not only for your legal team, but marketing departments and human resources, too.

With these four strategic, in-house tips now on your radar, which one resonates with you? Speak with a Thomson Reuters specialist to start building your virtual workplace through the HighQ platform solution.

Roisin is a content specialist with a keen interest in legal technology trends and developments. While managing Legal Insight as the showcase platform for legal thought leaders, Roisin enjoys collaborating with the best and brightest legal professionals and executives behind the scenes for podcasts, webinars and feature articles.

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