We sat down with Amy Sennett, Associate General Counsel at OpenText, and discussed how being an in-house generalist differs from being outside counsel and the biggest challenges she faced after leaving the law firm.
We also discussed when a company should look to hire external counsel and how having a CLM tool helps various teams in an organization come together and be more collaborative. Amy also shared her thoughts on the types of data companies should extract and track after implementing a CLM tool and how electronic signatures are essential in a post-pandemic world.
Amy has been with OpenText for a little over eight months. She has been handling the challenges of meeting, growing, and leading her team virtually during the global pandemic. Amy did not want to be just a lawyer for her entire career. She has always wanted to be a part of organizations and teams that are building upon common and collective goals. Amy gradually realized that her practice was becoming increasingly specialized.
OpenText is a Canadian organization and world leader in information management. The company helps organizations securely capture, exchange, and govern information on an international scale. OpenText solves various digital business challenges and issues for customers. These customers range from small and medium-sized businesses to some of the biggest and most complex companies in the world.
How being an In-House Generalist Differs from being Outside Counsel
Amy thinks that when you are in-house, you are part of the implementation. You have to work hard to convince and persuade the relevant department or function in your organization to implement your recommended solution.
Biggest Challenges after Leaving the Law Firm
As part of her first in-house job, Amy moved to a venture-backed company in Boston. She was the second lawyer at that company. The company had about 120 employees. One of the biggest changes and challenges Amy had to face was realizing that she had to convince her colleagues outside of the legal function to take her advice or adopt what she was recommending.
This was different from how things work at a law firm, where professionals, such as partners and associates, agree on the overall strategy and approach. On the other hand, in a company, it seems that the legal department has completely different goals and objectives than, for example, the sales or product team.
For instance, the relationship between the legal team and sales team is usually tenuous as their goals are quite different and even conflicting.
When does a Company need to Hire External Counsel
Amy is of the view that your internal legal team has to be an expert in your business, especially your commercial contracts. For example, they should know the products, routes to markets, and sales processes. She believes that commercial matters and commercial contracts should be kept in house as they are relationship-driven.
On the other hand, when there is an issue that is affecting lots of businesses across an industry or even multiple industries and where you don’t really need specialized knowledge of a specific firm or company but you need someone that can do something repeatedly or at scale, this is where hiring outside counsel makes sense and can be effective.
One good example is the implementation of the GDPR regulation. This is because your company does not need to gain that specialty or deep knowledge within your company.
Does Having a CLM Tool helps Various Teams Come Together
Amy thinks that even in a small firm, professionals are using tech in some manner, for example, a spreadsheet, to track their output and stay organized. As your company grows and you have more resources at your disposal, you will be able to leverage legal tech and similar tools. These tools are custom-designed for legal teams to reveal the data to drive and improve your legal function.
What Types of Data You should Extract and Track after Implementing a CLM Tool
Amy believes that you have to know your organization and who is influential in your organization to make that determination. You also have to determine what information could be impactful and meaningful to them and what problems you are trying to solve by implementing a contract management tool and pulling out specific data.
What KPIs and Legal Metrics or Analytics should Organizations Use?
Amy thinks that the term legal metrics or KPIs is applicable in limited situations. This can be, for example, when you have a very high number of standardized, non-negotiated, or templatized documents.
However, when you are dealing with documents that require legal negotiations, a better approach is tracking legal analytics. For example, all your contracts in the healthcare sector may take more time than you think. This can help uncover important insights you may otherwise miss.
Amy thinks that using qualitative trends rather than just quantitative data, such as turnaround time, can be more valuable and insightful for an organization.
Amy thinks that electronic signatures are the future of contract management and make a lot of sense, especially in the post-pandemic world. Electronic signatures are essential as they help you execute contracts faster and streamline the process. They are also great for a mobile workforce. This is because contracts can be signed virtually, which is convenient. You can make your transactions quick as well as convenient with the help of electronic signatures and reduce the risk of error associated with paper-based contracts.
Two Metrics to Keep an Eye on when Considering a CLM Tool
It is important to understand your organization and business model. For example, note that different metrics can be either valuable or detrimental, depending on the situation and circumstances.
You have to know the cadence and rhythm of your business and your contracting lifecycle to know what data you have to extract and highlight out of a tool in order to make it useful. It is important to set up legal tech that makes your legal team look good and be in harmony with the sales team. Most importantly, you should understand your business processes and optimize them as there is little to gain from automating a broken process.