A legal department plays a critical role in ensuring that the company conducts business legally and ethically. The team shares the value of putting the company's interests before any other concerns. However, despite their importance, legal departments are sometimes perceived as a hindrance to deal-making. They are seen as bottlenecks in deals, and friction between departments continues to exist, and hence, collaboration becomes difficult.
The key to collaboration between departments is a shared vision, mutual respect, and a clear understanding of each other's role in a project to achieve excellent outcomes for the company and outstanding customer service. In order to deal with this challenge, the in-house legal department needs to set up the right tools and culture to make it easier for everyone to work together proactively.
Listed below are 7 tips to help legal teams collaborate better with other departments:
Communicate effectively by eliminating language barriers
Eliminate language barriers
Having a departmental language style and jargon can turn others off. There is a lot of jargon in the legal field that can be confusing to other people, so communication can be challenging in some situations.
Besides the frustration, there is also a risk of miscommunication, which could derail the entire project.
To better communicate with other teams:
Create a common language that would be communicated during the team sessions.
Take advantage of past miscommunications to locate bottlenecks.
When introducing the common language, expect there to be a learning curve and make sure you involve your team members in the development process.
Encourage and help other teams to learn the basic terminology so that everyone can effectively communicate with one another day-to-day.
Remember, communication is the key to any relationship.
Be proactive with other teams
Sometimes teams complete entire projects, only for them to be cancelled or delayed for legal reasons. The team members are not only frustrated and demoralized by these scenarios, but the timeline and budget of the project is also impacted. This often creates friction between legal teams and other teams.
Boost cross-team collaboration by :
Keeping teams informed and involved when a project is underway will avoid unnecessary conflict.
Scheduling formal team check-ins and legal reviews.
Encourage team members to get familiar with each other informally.
Ensuring everyone who is involved in the project is aware of the results and actions from team meetings.
Don’t just say ‘no’, explain the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’.
To complete a project in a fast-paced work environment, everyone involved must be able to respond quickly to changes in schedules and processes.
Establish standard workflow to increase efficiency
The in-house legal team generally handles a wide range of legal issues involving multiple departments and divisions. This makes it difficult to keep up with requests and effectively manage the workload. The resulting disorderly process makes it complicated for colleagues to communicate and collaborate and also provides room for errors, which will increase work for everyone.
Standard workflows can help structure the entire process from requests to communication. Essentially, it reduces the potential for misunderstandings and enables the legal department to keep up with all requests.
Standard workflows can be maintained with these tips:
Make sure standard work requests and regulations are in place to avoid issues.
Communication flow can be standardized to make management easier.
Using a central repository allows for easy access to documents.
Simplification and clarification of roles can help keep tasks organized.
Setting up a system for allocating tasks and standardizing workflows can reduce inefficiency and allow you to spend more time adding value.
Take advantage of legal technology
For some reason, the in-house legal department has traditionally dealt with all legal matters manually, increasing the likelihood of errors and misunderstandings. Technology has profoundly impacted them, as professionals are now more efficient than ever. It is increasingly being used to enhance the efficiency of internal legal functions and to initiate a strategic management approach.
Technology assists in efficient team collaboration :
Centralized repository system improves transparency and accountability.
Automated alerts and notification systems help in staying on top of deadlines, which helps in avoiding the blame game.
Online cloud storage helps in efficient collaboration with other teams in real time.
E-signature enables faster approvals and execution and relieves the legal department of being the bottleneck of projects.
A contract workflow and e-signature enabled platform like InkPaper helps with better transparency between legal teams and other departments. It helps teams to keep better track of work and be efficient with no constant back-and-forth communication. To learn more about features of InkPaper, click here.
Encourage use of templates
Legal teams have to be on top of every contract. Reviewing and managing a vast number of agreements and contracts comes with a risk of overstretching the workload. This can be minimized with introducing ready to edit boilerplate templates that anyone can use. It will help in faster and efficient reviews.
Using templates can not only save legal teams’ time but also allow each department to take more responsibility for managing their legal risks.
Cultivate mutual respect and appreciation
Gaining victory provides a sense of accomplishment, and if that victory depends on cross-departmental cooperation, such recognition will serve as a positive reinforcement for future cooperation. A culture of celebration and acknowledgment of achievements within a team helps build trust and respect between members from different departments.
Don't restrict your celebrations to the completion of a single project. Instead, make small victories a habit. You don't need to go all out for a celebration. You can consider a catered dinner or game hour sponsored by your company as opportunities for team members to mix.
The ability to express thoughts and opinions freely is essential. Providing feedback can empower team members and facilitate collaboration between departments, thereby streamlining and improving processes.
The importance of fostering a culture of giving and accepting constructive feedback should be framed as something that focuses on circumstances, not something that is directed personally at people.
By following these tips, you'll be able to improve and maintain successful collaboration between legal and other departments. Additionally, it will increase employee productivity and engagement, helping you enhance profitability.
Collaboration and productive communications are essential to creating a more engaged, open, and connected workplace. Effective interdepartmental collaboration requires work at different levels, including leadership and culture, but this work can yield tremendous results.
InkPaper is a contract workflow platform that accelerates the contract lifecycle digitally. Legal teams and other departments can collaborate effectively to review, redline, edit, negotiate, approve, and store the contracts and agreements all in a single space. Use InkPaper and collaborate effectively.