C-Suite

How to get C-Suite Backing for Legal Tech Projects

When I was in the process of founding Juro, I spoke to a number of GCs about their incentives and the business metrics against which they’re judged. I had a memorable conversation with a General Counsel of an FTSE250 company. I wanted to know the key performance indicators (KPIs) by which his line manager judged him—in his case, the company’s CEO.

“I have two KPIs,” he told me. “Number one: How little money did I spend? And number two: What did I mess up?” Sadly, all too often, GCs still don’t own metrics that support the success of the business. This particular GC’s metrics made for rather a small dashboard.

It goes to show how difficult it can be to foster engaged, constructive dialogue between the legal function and the C-suite in a high-pressure, in-house environment. Convincing C-suite decision-makers to support and sign off on investment in legal technology can be an uphill battle.

This is frustrating when you look at the numbers. In our space (contract management), the statistics from The International Association for Contract & Commercial Management are dramatic: More than 83% of people are dissatisfied with the contract process, and poor contract management is estimated to put 9.2% of global revenue at risk.

Even so, it’s still difficult to convince the business to prioritize legal technology as a key purchase that will lead to a meaningful ROI. But in my experience, you can pull certain levers that are effective in persuading company leadership to back your legal tech project. Below are some proven tactics to win them over.

Nail the headline

Summarise your proposal in a number-based target that they can understand. “How we’ll cut legal risk in half,” or “How we’ll save $150k in 12 months,” or “How we’ll reduce outside counsel spend by $2m.” This makes your proposal more compelling and urgent.

Go beyond legal

Even with good intentions, most C-Suite leaders are reluctant to devote their attention to fixing legal process issues. But if you explain how that legal process affects multiple teams, and ultimately the business’ bottom line, they’re more likely to take notice.

At the company level, a broken legal process might impact growth because deals can’t be closed fast enough, or you could scare off a potential merger partner with the legal risk you’ve accrued. At a departmental level, it might be causing excessive spend and reliance on outside counsel, or creating an unsustainable burden on compliance. At ground level, it might mean that people are making mistakes, wasting time, and employee morale is suffering.

C-suite leaders are more likely to support your specific legal tech project if they understand the fact that it could positively impact the whole company—that it could even be a revenue driver.

Tell some stories

To make the strongest case you can, support your story by gathering testimony from those affected. Your CEO might not take your word for it, but if they hear their financial director say, “Our documents aren’t in good enough shape to handle due diligence for this merger,” or the head of compliance says, “I’m worried about whether we’re meeting our reporting obligations, because I don’t have visibility of all the paperwork we’re sending out,” they’ll sit up and take notice.

Find friends

Make sure you’ve lined up the key allies that you’ll need to make this happen. Have IT confirmed that whatever you’re proposing meets company data security requirements? Have sales confirmed it will integrate properly with their CRM? Have compliance signed off that the new process is watertight? Secure the backing of key stakeholders to make your request more likely to be approved.

Define success

Which metrics indicate your legal tech project achieved its goals? This might be something like “external spend down 30% by Q4” or “contract turnaround SLA of two weeks achieved 90% of the time.” Even better, establish how to deliver provable ROI on the project in year one; your proposed vendor should be able to help you with this by looking at case studies with current customers.

Define the pilot

Make the case more compelling by presenting your project as a pilot with a defined implementation period and getting vendor guarantees about training and time-to-value. Most failed legal tech projects are because of weak adoption, which is often due to a poorly-managed or designed implementation phase—make sure you’ve tackled this risk head-on.

Compelling events

Deploy any urgent forthcoming events to help you. Whether it’s a funding round, an event of exit, or new legislation (think GDPR), external events can help focus those charged with the strategic leadership of the company so they can act decisively.

Lean on these techniques to make sure your C-suite stakeholders take you seriously; having friends in the right places can give you the edge you need to make your legal tech project a successful reality, instead of yet another failed deployment.

About Richard Mabey

Richard Mabey
Richard Mabey is CEO and co-founder of contract collaboration platform Juro, which helps high-growth businesses in 45 countries manage contracts. Previously Richard was a corporate and M&A lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. FT Intelligent Business named Richard one of the global top ten legal business technologists in 2019.

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