A Cheat Sheet for Augmenting Your In-House Legal Department with Automation (That Actually Does the Work)
To all the newly appointed general counsels out there, we extend you a round of applause. And a friendly heads up: building out your dream department may take a bit of ingenuity… and a lot of flexibility.
If you work for a small- to mid-sized organization, your team is likely lean. According to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s (ACC’s) most recent Law Department Management Benchmarking Report, companies with under $1 billion in revenue “have a median of two lawyers and four legal staff.”
Those numbers are unlikely to grow anytime soon. Of the attorney’s surveyed in Axiom’s 2023 Deputy General Counsel Survey Report, 94% of respondents “predicted a potential hiring freeze” and 98% “have seen budget cuts.”
Despite those roadblocks – and this should come as no surprise – a majority of in-house departments (a staggering 100% (!) of those surveyed in Axiom’s View from Inside report) are handling higher volumes of more complex work. Aah, “doing more with less,” that old chestnut…
If those numbers give you pause, don’t let them. With some creativity and up-front legwork, you can run an effective team and continue to add value to your organization.
What’s an “Average” In-House Legal Department?
If you’re a new GC or CLO, you may wonder how your department stacks up against its peers – even if you’ve spent years working in-house. Or, maybe you are a legal ops professional, new to the in-house world, and curious about how best to support your department. Regardless of your role, it can sometimes be hard to assess what “normal” is when the structure and responsibilities of in-house teams are as varied as the organizations they support.
While every team will look different, most are a mélange of the following roles:
- General counsel (GC) or Chief Legal Officer (CLO): leads the department and advises on legal (and other strategic) decisions
- Assistant, Associate & Deputy General Counsel: support the GC/CLO by (among other responsibilities) solving problems proactively, assessing risk, and providing guidance on a myriad of issues
- Paralegals: assist counsel by preparing and drafting documents, monitoring legislative changes, and more
- Legal ops: help legal departments run like a business, by providing technological, project management, analytical, and financial management support
- Other administrative professionals: provide broad-based administrative support
Depending on the size of an organization and its industry, members of the legal department may specialize in a specific practice area – such as labor and employment, transactions, or IP – or act as generalists. In addition to working closely with the C-suite, in-house legal teams often work collaboratively with other departments including finance, marketing, IT, and human resources.
While no “average” team exists, most in-house legal departments are responsible for overseeing some (or all) of the duties below:
- Compliance and risk
- Contract management
- Data privacy and security
- Invoice review
- Public and corporate affairs
- Government affairs
- Environmental, social and governance (ESG)
- Internal investigations
- Corporate transactions
- Records and document management
Enterprise organizations – whose legal departments are generally responsible for overseeing all of those functions and more – can have armies of counsel and legal staff. According to the ACC report cited above, companies over $20 billion have a median of 80 lawyers and 145 legal staff. If you’re a GC for a small or mid-sized business, it’s likely your department oversees many of the functions listed above… but without a 200+ strong staff.
So, you may be wondering: “how, exactly, am I supposed to manage all of this work without onboarding additional staff?”
The answer: automation… that does the work for you.
We know… “automation” is a broad term. And it’s one that means different things to different people (and organizations). An “automated” solution that only sends out automated notifications, or automatically lets you know when the ball is in your court to get work done… is not true automation – it’s a souped-up notification system. A true automation solution gets the work done for you and offers total visibility into its process while it does its job.
While navigating those waters may be tricky, it’s an important thing to get right. Choosing the right solution will not only help you manage your day-to-day responsibilities – it will also help you run your legal department like a business.
“With limited budgets and competing priorities, automating functions to allow for more efficient use of your team’s time and bandwidth is a great option and investment,” said Deborah Solmor, founder of Ready Set GC.
But, with so many forms of automation on the market (some of which may not even be truly automated), choosing the “right one” may seem daunting or burdensome. If that’s the boat you’re in, Solmor recommends taking automation one step at a time and engaging in open conversations with your peers and team.
“If you are unsure where to start, talk to your peers and see what has worked for them,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions and try to get a hands-on look at potential technology solutions. Work with your team to identify those areas which would most benefit from automation.”
And, while different organizations may need to prioritize different technology investments, there is one solution that is relevant to all in-house departments, regardless of industry or organization size: entity management automation software.
Automate Legal Compliance
Compliance is a near-universal responsibility for in-house legal departments: the ACC’s 2022 Chief Legal Officer Survey found that 80% of CLO respondents oversee compliance. Different industries must “comply” with different rules and regulations, but maintaining legal compliance is something every organization must do.
Compared to some of the other functions legal departments oversee, legal compliance is an easy task to automate. The process of managing entities is rote, but time consuming. And the price of non-compliance is high – so entity management is something you need to get consistently right.
If you automate legal compliance, you will be in a position to use your team more effectively. Instead of spending hours tied up in spreadsheets – or cleaning up the messes that result from non-compliance – your team will be freed up to dig into higher level work.
One final note: while effective entity management has always been important, it’s about to become even more critical. On January 1, 2024, many organizations will need to comply with the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA). Under the Act, reporting companies will need to submit information to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) annually and every time information about a reporting company or its beneficial owners changes. If your organization’s entities aren’t in order, now is the time to adopt a reliable process.
How to Use Filejet as an Extension of Your Team
Filejet is an out-of-the-box legal compliance program that automates U.S. and international annual report, business registration, and DBA filings. It’s an entity management solution that works as a true extension of in-house legal teams.
You, your team, and internal and external stakeholders can assume different roles on the Filejet platform. They are:
- Super Admin
Refer to the cheat sheet for a breakdown of the functionality available to each user role – and to get a sense of the function each member of your team can play.
Drive Change with Filejet
Filejet is the entity management solution you don’t have to think about – unless you want to.
The Filejet dashboard provides instant visibility into your entities, fees, filing dates, and documents. Whatever can’t be automated will be handled by the Filejet team – who does that it takes to ensure clients never fall out of compliance. After onboarding, fines and wasted time will be a distant memory.
Interested in learning how you can get the most out of the Filejet platform? Check out our Filejet 3.0 guide.