Working cross-functionally: legal ops & IT

Lauren Lee | July 12, 2018 | Articles

Today, we’re sharing the second installment of our working cross-functionally blog series on how legal operations can enhance their relationships with IT. If you didn’t catch part one, which highlighted the benefits of close alignment between legal ops and sales, you can check out the post here.

To make sure you don’t miss parts three and four of the series, or any other legal ops news and updates, subscribe to our blog. Now that we’ve got our housekeeping items out of the way, let’s dive in!

3 Causes of Friction Between Legal Ops and IT

We know how important it is for legal ops to work cross-functionally – they’re involved with almost every department in the organization. That being said, it isn’t uncommon for there to be friction between departments, especially legal ops and IT. To help legal ops professionals navigate this relationship, we’re sharing what commonly fuels the friction between the two departments, as well as strategies for creating a partnership that yields positive outcomes for all involved.

1. Not Seeking a Champion

When we speak with legal operations professionals, one of the most valuable pieces of advice they share on the topic of collaboration is to find a champion in each department. IT is no exception.

While your communications with IT may not be as regular as your communications with departments like sales or human resources, it’s important to identify who in IT will be your champion. Building this relationship gives you the opportunity to explain your department’s goals, short and long-term initiatives related to technology, as well as your requirements for ongoing support.

Don’t make the mistake of viewing your IT team as a bottleneck and see them as a resource to make sure a proposed solution makes sense for the problem at hand. Leverage their expertise to get a second perspective and allow them to help shape your vision. This will prevent costly or time-consuming mistakes from cropping up in the future.

2. Introduction of New Technology

With legal technology emerging as one of the most valuable tools to help legal departments run an efficient and productive department, it’s common for legal operations to turn to their IT counterparts for assistance – whether you need to implement a new technology or plan to integrate solutions across departments, like a legal e-Billing solution with a finance AP solution.

What happens far too often is that legal will bring IT on board after a technology has been selected and is ready to be implemented, only to find out that IT doesn’t have the bandwidth to provide support in the proposed timeline. In some cases, IT might push back because the technology doesn’t meet certain technical requirements, or additional work (which also means additional time) outside of the original scope is needed in order to move forward.

To avoid this situation, legal operations teams should involve their IT teams early and often. Include them during the evaluation of a new technology, ask what their requirements might be, and if they have the time and resources to provide help within the timeframe that you are requesting. Diving into all the details as you initiate the process will make sure you are not significantly delayed halfway through your initiative.

To help legal teams that are interested in adopting new legal technology, download our implementation template which outlines the specific steps you’ll need to consider before you embark on an implementation project.

3. Need for Consistent and Reliable Ongoing Support

Proper investments in legal technology can make it easier for legal operations to keep and consolidate records and billing information, efficiently review contracts, manage IP portfolios, and more.

All of these technologies will undoubtedly require some level of ongoing support, which should be discussed with your IT champion. Setting up dedicated time, such as a quarterly meeting, to review any changes to your technology roadmap and any upcoming initiatives is another way to ensure you’re always on the same page and to reduce surprises for your IT team.

Together We Can Achieve Great Things

While technology promotes numerous benefits, keep in mind that challenges often aren’t solved with technology alone. Planning, collaboration, and a clear understanding of how technology will solve your specific goals, are just a few requirements for success.

To learn more about the importance of working cross-functionally and for other tips on modernizing and growing your legal operations function, download our latest whitepaper: Legal Operations 101: A Blueprint for Modern Legal Departments. And of course, don’t forget to check back for parts three and four of our cross-functional collaboration series!

Legal Ops