3 Ways to Up Legal’s Approachability Factor

As many as 65% of enterprise employees bypass the legal department on occasion. Here’s how to turn that around and become the true leader Legal is meant to be.

Modern life teems with sigh-worthy moments: dodgy WiFi when you’re on deadline, your phone battery running out of juice with no place to recharge, the dreaded “You have two more password attempts before being locked out.”

But would it surprise you to learn that, for enterprise employees, dealing with Legal can also sometimes feel a little bit the same? The Enterprise Legal Relationship (ELR) Report – a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany – revealed that only 35% of respondents always engage with Legal on matters.

Even more astonishing, an inverse relationship exists: the fewer the transactions with Legal, the more positive the relationship. Employees from the United Kingdom, who tend to engage with the legal department most frequently, report the poorest interactions, whereas employees in France cite perhaps the best relationships with Legal, yet are most likely to bypass Legal.

It doesn’t have to be this way. These findings present a major opportunity for Legal to improve its approachability factor. In fact, the department has the chance to jumpstart efficiency, impact materiality, and grow the innovation and culture of the business in unprecedented ways.

Increase the percentage of employees that engage Legal by:

  1. Cutting the perception of red tape

By and large, employees believe Legal is doing its job – and exceedingly well! But for the enterprise employees who do admittedly bypass Legal on occasion, 36% say they feel the department has a tendency to sometimes be overly bureaucratic.

Legal excels at patents, trademarks, and intellectual property (IP), according to 92% of respondents, as well as matters involving HR issues (88%). But as business partners, nearly half (49%) claim that Legal can be “too process-oriented,” causing 53% of employees in even the most-compliant United States to occasionally circumvent legal processes. And in the other nations surveyed, those numbers skyrocket, to 63% in the United Kingdom, 68% in Germany, and 73% in France.

Legal is typically process-oriented – that’s how the department protects the business. This is a chance to examine existing policies and forge new ones that may reduce any unnecessary inefficiencies.

  1. Accelerating response times

Every internal client knows that mitigating enterprise risk is Legal’s essential purpose. Yet nearly half of global respondents worry that Legal’s abundance of caution while doing so could potentially damage sales cycles, affecting deal close rates (43%), missed earnings (35%), and even stock price drops and valuation loss (14% each, respectively). Further, many employees (41%) feel that Legal is not as responsive since many legal operations departments have been working remotely or on a hybrid schedule as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s impossible to work well together if a salient entity like Legal even occasionally feels absent from the enterprise. But introducing methods to improve channels of cross-enterprise communication as well as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) tools to rapidly accelerate Legal’s response time can dramatically prevent Legal’s chance of being bypassed.

  1. Embracing flexibility and inclusivity

Trust has a way of naturally trickling downward. Half of all employees (49%) – and three out of five (58%) in France – believe Legal can sometimes be a bit too rigid. If employees feel that a situation is inflexible, they may be far less likely to interact, for fear of being rejected. However, as one ethical compass of the enterprise, Legal also has a unique and distinct advantage in its proverbial back pocket: the ability to transform company culture by bearing the torch for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and protecting the business’ atomic unit – data.

Knowledge is power

Legal always puts itself in the line of fire for a business. But how can you protect the business if two-thirds of your internal clients occasionally evade your oversight?

Bypassing legal is no way to reach your enterprise’s desired destination. Arm yourself, your department, and your team with this knowledge – the knowledge to automate both workflows and processes for greater efficiency and effectiveness between departments; to be a business partner that accelerates the cycle of winning deals; and to become more involved, approachable, and collaborative – so that employees always abide by Legal’s policies. This is how Legal becomes a leader. And, by doing so, Legal will secure a spot as a key differentiator for cost efficiency, operational excellence, and revenue generation.

Find out more about how to prevent your legal team from being bypassed by downloading ELR Report Chapter 1.

The ELR Report is a third-party, multinational study of 4,000 enterprise employees and 500 corporate legal professionals across the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany intended to showcase relationship dynamics and perceived image between corporate legal teams and enterprise organizations.

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