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In today’s business and economic climate, highly-skilled legal professionals must be allowed to apply their expertise where it matters – to provide strategic advice or negotiate – and not have their time wasted by the same, basic requests and low-value documents continually coming at them from business stakeholders.
With every one lawyer responding to an average of 400 stakeholders, automation removes the bottlenecks that inevitably occur when they would otherwise be inundated with untenable low-value requests. It's not surprising that legal automation has fast become a key pillar of legal operations and transformation strategies.
However, procuring said technology is not always simple, as often, lawyers and department leaders can find it difficult to justify perceived challenges and especially when they find themselves saying “I don’t have time to dedicate to proactive projects when I’m overwhelmed servicing BAU/urgent requests”.
To find out more about how Xero’s legal team approached their automation journey, Dan Pooley, Head of Customer Success at Checkbox, sat down with Georgia Petry, Legal Counsel at Xero where she shared her first-hand experience and learnings on the key drivers of their automation journey and how they achieved success and overcame challenges along the way.
- Implement Open Communication and Capacity Tracking to Identify Areas for Automation
With Xero being a technology company themselves, there is an emphasis on the importance of prioritizing and acknowledging the importance of automation and leveraging technology tools to improve processes and efficiencies and work better across teams.
With not only a team of 50 lawyers supporting 4,800 employees at Xero, but lawyers that are also spread across different divisions, sub-teams, time zones and countries, it was essential that they consistently and continuously identify ways to automate and improve particular processes to prevent silos and inefficiencies.
The Xero legal team achieves this by implementing agile methodology and identifying opportunities for legal technology tools, specifically automation. “We have stand ups, we have ways of connecting throughout the day to make sure that those communication lines are open,” said Georgia. “It’s a great way that we can identify areas that we could improve or say that automation can be deployed in. Really taking a step back and looking at the work we're doing as a whole team or sub-team and looking at those areas of repetition, looking at those areas of maybe potential slight inefficiencies or ways that we could improve.”
- Automation is the Key to Unlocking Efficiencies
While Xero's lawyers often receive routine and repetitive requests, although “easy" in nature, adding up the time spent on routine and repetitive work means there is no time to dedicate to strategic projects or even slightly more complicated jobs.
Georgia explains that if the business didn’t need to contact legal for an entire piece of work or even if 10 contracts a month didn’t require a lawyer, that’s however many hours a week or month that can be redirected to higher-value work.
“I think that automation is such a key driver, or key result, in being able to resolve a lot of those inefficiencies,” said Georgia. “Sometimes you think, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to do this piece of work?’ and then often automation can be the key to saying ‘Yes, it would be great’ and it’s possible just for that to happen.”
- Empowering Legal to Leverage Automation Tools
At Xero, they found it important for legal professionals to be empowered to learn about automation, be up to speed on a new piece of technology, and to deliver on its benefits for the organization. It became more apparent for them as the lawyers saw the impact to business users, but also to their own workload.
“Taking that bird’s eye view and looking at how we can better support the business and how to be a better business partner creates a more efficient process,” explained Georgia.
“The reduction in repetitive work for lawyers, and also delivering a better experience for business users, means it’s very empowering to know about these tools and drive projects to further implement them”, said Georgia.
- Identify Which Factors to Consider & Identify Key Metrics Early on for Buy-In
For Xero, the key driver of their automation journey was first identifying an area that they could automate.
Their team was able to identify the NDA process as a large portion of their repetitive work where they needed to come up with a way to drive efficiency across the function. As a result, the legal team identified that a significant ROI for Xero adopting automation would be that it would give quite a significant time back to lawyers, remove bottlenecks in the process and provide a better experience to business users.
“At Xero, we have automated our NDA process with Checkbox, meaning that the business would be able to self-serve,” said Georgia. “They can go on a tool within their dashboard, put in their details, the counter-body details and generate a Xero mutual NDA and send it out to signature that doesn’t touch legal’s desk whatsoever.”
Other factors that the legal team at Xero took into consideration were:
- The processes that could benefit from automation
- Desired outcomes from implementing automation
- Who should be benefitting from automation
Additionally, putting metrics behind the need for an automation tool helped with securing buy-in from decision-makers at Xero.
“So saying, we are getting on average X amount of NDAs a month on average that our legal team is spending X hours on a month. If we can implement a tool, we are going to reduce that to zero or to, you know, you know, by 90% or 80%.” said Georgia. “Having that use case and that kind of success metric at the start really helped when we were considering, you know, who do we need to get on board, who do we need to get buy-in? It was much easier once we had that vision to get people on board and to get people behind that because you know, what a great outcome that would be for both us and the business.”
- Don’t Stop Measuring Success
Measuring success and what those metrics look like is critical at the start of an automation journey. Even if specific metrics cannot be articulated, just knowing what success would look like if a tool was implemented can help ease buy-in as well.
“Thinking about the end user and what success metrics would look like using the product is a good baseline for starting your automation journey. Defining what success looks like creates credibility because you can report back on your goals,” said Georgia. “If this is your first automation project or if you already have 20 automation projects that have already been implemented, going back to the business and repeatedly measuring against those metrics and demonstrating how much time was saved, builds that credibility of people who bought into the project.”
Measuring success should also be an ongoing process. Communicating to the business, seeing the usage of the legal automation tool and the success of the project can shed light of the ROI brought back to the business and drive confidence behind the initiatives and strategies of the legal team.
“In terms of our ROI for this tool, we have seen a little over 250 NDAs. Now that’s 250 NDAs that we would have looked at over the last however many months having not gone through this tool,” said Georgia. “It has been a real success story for us as it aligns with the goals that we had when we first thought of this project.”
What’s Next for Xero?
With their legal automation journey being a success for Xero, it’s natural to think of what is coming down the pipeline in their efforts toward innovation.
“The possibilities are endless, really,” said Georgia. “I think that the sky is the limit when you think about the amount of repetitive work that could be automated. The team is always looking at ways we can streamline our legal operations. We’re interested in how we can continue to empower the business to self-serve."
Access the full webinar recording or watch the 1-min recap video below to hear more about Xero’s automation journey with Checkbox.
Is your team ready for legal automation? Request a demo today, and one of our legal technology consultants can walk you through on how to get started with Checkbox and achieve similar success to Xero and other leading legal teams from Telstra, Woolworths, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners and more.
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