Blog Post

It’s Time to Build a Data-Driven Culture Inside Legal

October 23, 2020

The role of the GC is changing – faster than ever. By building a data-driven culture within legal, GCs can demonstrate greater commercial awareness and take their seat with the CEO and CFO.

There’s a saying that if you play by the old rules, you won’t win the new battles. Never has that been truer than in legal right now.

The threat horizon is changing.  New risks are developing all the time; from supply chain breakdowns to employee litigation, and whether they like it or not, GCs and law firms are playing a leading organizational role in the new world, post-pandemic.

And that role is morphing from just traditional legal representation. Realistically this has been happening for years – in a series of blogs three years ago, we discussed the changing role of the GC – from business manager to communicator, technologist to risk manager.

But what’s different now is the accelerated pace at which this is occurring, and the commercial emphasis that GCs are required to take into consideration.

According to a recent Barometer newsletter, the pandemic has cemented the need for GCs to be an ‘agile and innovative business driver’. Under pressure to deliver revenue-driving initiatives, the legal team is ‘expanding their priorities to address broader business issues,’ further heightening their importance to the C-suite.

But commercial awareness has never been a priority for the legal department, so GCs must show their business acumen if they want to use this as an opportunity to demonstrate their value and join the ranks of the CFO and CEO.

And the fastest, most effective technique to do this? Through data.

While the benefits of a data-driven business are varied and plentiful, what many organizations lack understanding of is the importance of building a data-driven culture alongside their strategy. By being the catalyst for change and instilling a data culture throughout the legal department, GCs can demonstrate their readiness for this new era and prove business intellect beyond anything that legal matter management could achieve.

Recently we wrote about forming a culture of innovation within an organization, and how a focus on business goals is required before technology enters the conversation. The same applies when it comes to developing a data culture.

Data isn’t about technology. It’s about thinking differently. It’s about being able to answer strategic business questions with facts gleaned from the information the legal department (and other areas of the business) are producing every day.

Technology is the enabler – it helps gather, organize and analyze the data, but without a defined strategy and business goals in mind from the outset, data is just raw information – not useful, actionable intelligence.

Once this strategy is defined and aligned to the business goals, GCs should focus on cultivating a data culture by first getting C-Suite buy-in. According to McKinsey, this is about more than just lip-service. ‘The {C-suite} commitment must be manifested by more than occasional high-level pronouncements; there must be an ongoing, informed conversation with top decision-makers and those who lead data initiatives throughout the organization.’

But defining the strategy and having senior buy-in will not create a data culture in itself. Top-down strategies rarely yield the most constructive results among the ranks. GCs should also get buy-in from everyone – top to bottom – by democratizing the data and ensuring it doesn’t become a ‘specialist subject’ or hived off into specific teams. This will help to normalize the language, impact, and understanding of it throughout the team.

Allowing access to data isn’t a free-for-all. It’s a focused way of ensuring the people who need specific elements of data have access to it when they require it. As this McKinsey article states, people get excited by data that gives them room to improve – no-one has ever said they don’t want more information that could help them deliver better service or product.

HBR suggests that’s one of the most powerful ways to develop a data culture is to help your team. While many organizations use data to improve customer services and relations, products, research, and development, using data to help your team helps infuse the benefits of a data culture in their minds.

In legal, this might be using data to alleviate the billing process, or time and matter management. It might be to reassign roles within the team to ensure the right people are attending to the right tasks. If the data is used to alleviate a frustrating, laborious, or tedious part of their role, people will have a vested interest in knowing more.

Another vital part of a data culture is the ability to understand and manage risk, which is why in some ways, legal is the perfect place to start this cultural evolution. Data comes with an innate level of responsibility, especially in the current regulatory environment in the shadow of GDPR, POPI, and the CCPA.

McKinsey says that while data is a ‘smart accelerator’ companies need to ensure their processes and interactions with data are dealt with responsibly. By starting the cultural shift from inside legal, managing this risk, and concerns around data compliance can be controlled and managed – more so than other departments.

To develop a data-driven culture requires someone that understands these elements of risk, compliance, and who has a strong influence and understanding of organizational operations. Legal sits at the intersection of the entire organization and is perfectly placed to be this catalyst for change.

The new battleground for businesses and legal is one where knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of data is at the core of everything they do. It’s time to start playing by new rules to win these new battles.

If you want to be the catalyst for change inside your legal team, contact us today, we can help you build a data-driven culture and ensure the success of your data strategy.