Legal ops teams have come a long way over the last decade. From legal ops professionals fighting first just to define the function’s identity and purpose, to legal ops teams waging battle against apathy and inertia, today legal ops is universally recognized as strategically crucial. As Nathan Wenzel wrote for Law.com, “Thanks to technological advancement and consistent incubation, we are hitting that critical mass where legal ops is recognized as an important part of the legal department across industries, company size and geography.”
One reason for this, as analysts from Deloitte have written, is that law firms and corporate legal departments alike are being asked to do more with less—to find ways to become more adaptive, agile, and operationally dexterous (all in addition to minimizing risk and ensuring compliance!)—and legal operations teams are looked to as essential partners in that work.
But that ask is a challenging one: help companies and firms innovate, deliver value, and increase efficiency—only, on the cheap.
The pressure to operate “on the cheap” is more than merely sentimental. On top of the economic pressures inherent to improving efficiency—to operate more efficiently is ultimately to spend less money—legal ops teams typically have less budget to work with. And even today, their priorities tend to play second fiddle to those of, say, sales and marketing.
And so one question top of mind for just about every legal ops team right now is this: how to go about doing our job without breaking the bank?
Legal ops teams should think bigger when buying new apps.
This feels slightly obvious, seeing as how both building and buying apps is expensive, but it’s an important place to start because historically, this has been legal ops teams’ most available solution for affecting change.
One problem is, it’s expensive. And the costs of an apps-based optimization strategy in fact extend far beyond the sticker price for those apps. More cost in fact comes from the change management required of getting folks to use the new apps.
As I’ve written before, “A primary impediment to implementing more innovative and efficient processes and technological solutions in legal operations is the fact that attempting to do so often requires forcing employees to learn how to use yet another app.”
Learning how to navigate new interfaces is inherently challenging, but it’s even more challenging in the context of legal, where users tend to be more allergic to process innovation, because of, among other things, the sense that it might introduce risk. This creates a higher barrier towards technological acceptance and, ultimately, mastery.
And there are other costs. Every time an employee needs to switch to a new interface, it takes them out of flow or focus, decreasing their efficiency.
And the more interfaces you introduce, the more that issue of transition presents itself.This is one reason why, as Mary O’ Carroll, Former President of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), wrote in an article last year, implementing point solutions such as apps to address specific challenges can “often unintentionally create bigger problems.”
How can legal ops solve for those problems? One way is to try and think bigger than relying on apps as the go-to solution for every challenge.
Which is not to say the solution is to eschew new technology altogether. Rather, the goal should be to empower your people to use the right technology in the right moment, and to enable people to focus more purposefully on the work they need and want to focus on. What’s needed is a different way of using technology to improve operations.
So, how do you achieve that?
One key is more strategic consolidation and orchestration.
In other words, when implementing new technology solutions, consider not only what problems they solve, but how these new solutions will work together and what functional overlaps they might present. Do you need to buy three apps that have overlapping functionalities? Or is there a better alternative? And how will you get these new solutions into the hands of your users in a way that doesn’t disrupt their workflow, but better yet enhances it?
That’s where Tonkean comes in. Tonkean is a process orchestration platform that empowers legal ops teams to, among other things, make more efficient use of the tools employees already love using and to ensure new tools are implemented as strategically and economically as possible.
Tonkean effectively sits above your operational infrastructure, and connects all your disparate systems and tools. It also is adaptable to users’ varying preferences. It enables legal ops teams to build workflow automation solutions, for example, that reach out to certain users—when their attention is required for a contract approval, let’s say—only in the systems they spend their time in. Meaning, users don’t need to learn how to use (and remember to check) the sales teams’ CRM—which they don’t like checking or using in the first place—enabling them to stay in their systems of choice, spend more time and energy focusing on high value work, all while dissembling previously expensive bottlenecks.
Legal ops teams can also use Tonkean to create legal intake processes that auto-handle simple requests, and strategically routing more complex ones, all while plugging into the existing intake sources, like email and other systems, without requiring a host of new cumbersome intake forms. Or, processes that automatically generate and route a new contract request whenever the sales team moves a relationship in the CRM from the “sales” stage to the “contracts stage.” Such processes save more time and help employees operate more efficiently.
Legal ops teams can foster independence from IT.
But there’s another big way that Tonkean helps legal ops teams do more with less, and that’s by liberating legal ops employees from their dependency on IT and technology consultants to build them custom solutions, or technologically support their use of apps purchased off-the-shelf—which is another huge legal ops cost today.
That cost comes in the form of either billable hours for external consultants, the tax on IT’s time, or via the delays that spring from the inevitable bottlenecks caused by IT’s lack of bandwidth. (Custom solutions, for example, can take 6–9 months (or more) to build, and require long-term maintenance after deployment.) What if you could free legal ops from that dependency?
Well, that’s what Tonkean does. By way of its no-code functionality, Tonkean fosters self-sufficiency in designing and deploying workflow solutions. It effectively outsources IT’s task of enabling legal ops to legal ops (in a way that IT would approve of).
Consider what’s required of such enablement. To truly be self-sufficient, legal ops users need to be able to:
- Build workflows themselves, in an intuitive no-code environment
- Connect and leverage capabilities in the existing toolset like matter management, eSignature, CRM, contract management, email, forms, chat, and more
- Surface data and actions in a way that’s simple for attorneys and business customers (i.e. in email, documents, etc.)
- Do it in a way that’s sanctioned and supported by IT
That’s what Tonkean provides.
Enablement in the form of such self-sufficiency is exponentially more cost-effective than enabling legal ops users piecemeal, through individual apps. As Amit Zavery, VP and Head of Platform for Google Cloud, wrote last year, “When the ability to create business applications is extended beyond IT to the people closest to the challenges…the speed at which a business can move and the number of people working on solutions can both increase dramatically.”
A highly valuable and economic partner to the rest of the organization.
At Tonkean, we talk daily with enterprise legal ops teams optimizing processes to be more economical and efficient using our process orchestration and workflow automation tools. We see legal ops teams building complex workflows that handle everything from simple NDA requests to coordinating long, complex matters. And they’re saving millions doing it: reducing manual tasks, eliminating change management, gaining more agility, and extending the value of their existing technology—perfecting a different way of using technology to improve operations.
All of which is only becoming more and more critical of a competitive edge. As Richard Brzakala and Nancey Watson wrote recently in Reuters, “Companies that have adopted a legal ops strategic approach have enjoyed greater success in terms of building relationships, maintaining costs and creating long-term savings than alternative, generic-based, procurement-type models.”
Tools like Tonkean can power that “strategic approach.” It’s a tool designed specifically for ops teams’ unique, challenging, but ever-more crucial role inside organizations.