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Categories: Cisco HPE Netapp

The general counsel role is one that’s evolved immensely in the past few years, and that’s in no small part due to the growth of legal operations, according to three top in-house lawyers at major tech companies. At the final panel discussion at the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s 2018 institute, @Yahoo ’s legal ops leader @JeffFranke got @NetApp Inc. GC @MattFawcett, @Cisco Systems Inc. GC @MarkChandler and @Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. CLO @JohnSchultz to open up about the changes they’ve seen due to the rise of legal ops. Schultz said he started an ops function at HPE because he wanted greater process efficiency–but that the function’s changed the department in many other ways too. “The discipline that [legal operations] brings around dashboarding and analytics really does drive a different level of excellence into the business,” he said. “We’re not all that comfortable with numbers and scorecards and so forth and the ops group has done a tremendous job at creating that rigor that I think has improved the excellence of what we do in a demonstrable way.” The ability to improve a department’s performance is important, according to Schultz, but legal ops’ role in measuring that success in a visible way has also been crucial in expanding the influence of in-house legal throughout HPE. “When you can [provide metrics] on a consistent basis, it increases so greatly the credibility that you have inside the company,” he said. “It then allows you to have an expanded role.” Fawcett echoed these statements. At NetApp, he and Connie Brenton, the company’s senior director of legal operations, have played a role in beta testing new technologies for other departments, created workflows for processes outside of legal and served on the company’s technology investment board. Chandler said legal operations has helped companies tap into and better utilize the legal department, as it’s one of few groups that works with the entire organization. “They see every transaction the company does, and that’s why the legal operations role is so important,” he said. Chandler added that operations’ ability to turn the data from these transactions into meaningful dashboards has been useful at Cisco. The panelists also noted legal operations’ role in pushing their departments to be more tech-oriented, while increasing efficiency and lowering cost. Fawcett said these changes were possible by reassessing risk levels and not being afraid to take a chance. In his experience, many legal departments may be overcautious, leading to expensive and inefficient strategies. GCs that want to see real improvement in their department should be more open to taking a risk and try new technologies and processes, he explained. “One of my jobs is being the person who says, ‘We can take that risk,’” Fawcett said. “Let’s take that risk. You’re not going to break NetApp with one bad transaction.”

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