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The Case of NLC: The Search for and Implementation of Legisway
Q&A: part 1/2
Host: Maurits Annegarn (Segment Manager Legal Software at Wolters Kluwer)
Guests: Sandra Lammerding (Head Legal Counsel at NLC), Jan-Willem Prakke (Founder of and Partner at Legal Manager)
Central to this conversation was the case of NLC. Out of thousands of inventions in the healthtech industry, NLC's core activity is to facilitate the path to the global market for these inventions by building ventures around them. With so many entities comes a great deal of legal and administrative obligations.
What were some of the obstacles that led NLC's legal department to look for a digital solution in the first place? How does implementing a rigorous new administrative system like Legisway work exactly? What are the lessons learned? And what are the ultimate benefits?
Maurits: What was the initial challenge that made you look for a digital solution?
Sandra: The first thing I noticed when I joined NLC was that contract terms were not being recorded nor monitored. So we had no clear overview of all the contracts we manage. Another important aspect for NLC is corporate governance. NLC creates a lot of entities throughout the year and that information was scattered all over the place, from digital drives to physical archives. So to have all that valuable information in one place was already an improvement. Plus we had legal professionals managing all of the entities manually which is of course very time consuming.
Maurits: What were some of the criteria when you were looking for a digital solution? How did you end up choosing Legisway?
Sandra: Once we identified concrete obstacles we consulted with our IT department to find the most suitable software to deal with these problems. We were convinced by how Legisway lets us manage contracts, keep track of deadlines and structure our corporate governance. The dashboard conveniently gives us an instant overview of all these core activities and their relevant data. Plus, the possibility of outsourcing parts of our legal work ultimately led us to Legal Manager in combination with Legisway.
Maurits: Can you tell us a bit more about this combination of the services of Legal Manager and Legisway?
Sandra: Our legal department is relatively small considering the scale of our operations. This means we have to come up with creative solutions sometimes. Therefore we were looking for something more than just digitizing our administration. Legal Manager really helped us to optimize the output of Legisway through a customized dashboard environment that reflected the most important data.
Maurits: Jan-Willem, if we would take it a bit broader than the case of NLC: what are some of the commonalities you encounter at Legal Manager?
Jan-Willem: I think it all boils down to this combination of service and software if you really want to solve problems like these. Solutions like Legisway are usually highly customizable which can be an advantage if you know what you're doing. Knowing how to use this kind of software and how to optimize the output creates tremendous value for our clients. I think this is also characteristic of the way companies implement software today. They don’t blindly buy software hoping their problems magically disappear. Instead they carefully consider all the consequences and benefits.
Maurits: Sandra, how did you experience the implementation of Legisway? What are the lessons learned so far? Sandra: I think it was important for us to see this whole process as a separate project. We made a very detailed project plan that includes a timeline, software inventory, possible outsourcing and a mapping of all the relevant data. Also vital to implementation is stakeholder management. Our IT-department and Managing Board were involved from the beginning with regards to the technical and financial implementation. Another important thing to do is to structure the data you want to analyze with this software. This is a complex and time-consuming process that you want to get right before proceeding with the implementation. Lastly, it is essential that the communication is on point. People need to know why this software suddenly exists within the department, what the benefits are and that they actively maintain the use of it.
Jan-Willem: Especially Sandra’s point about communication: it is essential that the dashboard is configured right from the beginning. Users should instantly see that the dashboard is in fact giving them useful insights. The good thing about this dashboard is that it shows user activity, which is a great indication if your legal professionals are actually using the software. So if the user activity decreases you know that there is a weak spot in your implementation.
Sandra: I couldn’t agree more. A system is just a system but with this technology we have the opportunity to form the basis of truth, as long as it is well maintained by everyone.
Jan-Willem: There’s a beautiful term called the “single source of truth”, which a legal department enforces. Legal departments are in the end every company’s conscience and therefore should take responsibility for the system that processes contracts. They should make sure that each contract has the right (automated) signature and has the name of the relevant venture on it, for example. All this relates to something we like to call “preventive lawyering”, which is about having your administration in order so it saves you time in the long run.
Sandra: And that time is actually really valuable because it enables a department to focus on work that really matters, things that can actually add some value to the business. By that I mean the more complex transactions and our advisory roles.
Jan-Willem: Also, when implementing systems like Legisway, it is important that you have people who have the right qualifications handling it. I see companies who have department secretaries take care of the implementation while they are not qualified to do so. On the other end you also don’t want your in-house attorneys doing these operational tasks since they are simply overqualified and lack the motivation. There are legal operations specialists who are trained to get the most out of these systems in terms of data analytics and configuration. So to reach an optimal result with systems like Legisway, you need to appoint the people who have the right qualifications.
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