Welcome to go with the workflow where we interview world-class leaders in legal and experts in workflow automation to learn from their hard-earned experiences in making work more efficient and more meaningful. Today, my guest is Jeffrey Frank. Jeff is a big picture strategic thinker and a visionary who was there at the birth of legal operations as one of the founders of Clock. Jeff helped define and evolve the legal operations role for the industry in many ways, including creating clock's 12 core competencies that define legal operations excellence. Today for more than 20 years, he's held leadership roles in corporate legal departments at Sun Microsystems, now part of Oracle, and afterwards at Yahoo, where he was the chief of staff to the general counsel and senior director of legal operations. Today, Jeff is the co-founder and CEO of legal ops.com, where he continues to move the legal operations profession forward.
On this episode, we took a trip down memory lane to explore how legal operations started and how it's evolved to where it is today before going deep into what practice areas should be built out in a legal department as it matures, and then going even deeper on a maturity model Jeff developed to provide guidance on what types of technology should be implemented when. And of course, where workflow automation sits on that timeline. We dabble on the concept of the legal front door, and Jeff shares some of his stories on how workflow automation is not just an efficiency benefit, but a risk management one too, and how he's seen workflow automation generate an exponential r o i for the business. It was such an insightful conversation and a privilege to have Jeff on. So with that, I hope you enjoy this episode. I have a very, very special guest, we're all very privileged to have here, Jeff Frank.
Jeffrey Frank is originally an attorney and, in private practice, won't hold that against him. Before he went and became the director and associate General Counsel of Sun Microsystems, which was eventually acquired by Oracle, he then moved over to Yahoo, where he was the chief of staff and assistant, general counsel, and that's where he, pioneered, the concept of legal operations whilst being one of the founders of Clock where he remained there, in the leadership for, quite a number of years. And today, he is the c e o and founder of legal ops.com, which will talk more about in a moment. But, hi, Jeff. Welcome to the show.
Thanks so much, Evan. It's fantastic to be here today. I appreciate you sharing the airwaves with me for a little bit.
Absolutely. So, Jeff, um, let's start with this. You, you've been in legal operations for quite a long time now. When, how and why did you actually make the move from practicing law to operations?
I started practicing law in about 92. About 96 I went in-house at Sun Microsystems and I practiced law there for about 10 years, predominantly doing commercial transactions and, then technology transactions and, you know, legal operations people tend to have a similar personality type. We like efficiency and we like to optimize processes, and it was an ongoing frustration of mine doing tonnes and tonnes of commercial deals and later tech deals that were complicated, not being able to automate any of the processes, not being able to create some of the documents, not being able to get approvals automatically. And, you know, it was that that partly drove me to it. We also had a really big legal op or legal tech team, and there were just a lot of opportunities from collaboration to budget development that really were interesting to me. Right. This field is multidisciplinary, right?
It's part law, it's part business, and it's part tech. So about 2005, I, I made the switch. I actually went to the head of legal and said, you know, I'd really like to move into an operations role, which didn't even exist. And, after a little bit of conversation, he agreed there was a real opportunity for me to kind of help take some things off of his desk and then see what we could do to try and improve processes, create templates, et cetera. So it's been kind of in my DNA from the beginning, and I think it's probably pretty much in the DNA of anybody that's on this call, I'm guessing.
Hmm. I I like how you saw that sort of, um, intersection between law, business and operations, because I think wind back a, a few years and, a lot of what people understood the practice of law to be was from the experience of, of private practice where it was, you know, black letter law and, and very much about the law. And, and maybe less about the ops and the, and the, and the business side. How, how have you seen that evolve, you know, legal operations, you've, you've been in the space for about while, while now. Um, how has that evolved over the time that since you sort of started, um, in, in operations as well as, how did technology play a role in that evolution?
That's a great question. So it's been interesting. Legal operations has really followed from my perspective, an evolution that ties into the role of the general counsel as well as a few other factors. Technology being one of those evolution of LSPs. a little bit of the lack of evolution of outside counsel, interestingly enough. But, you know, I've, I've looked into this and if you go back to like the 1980s GCs were really just all about risk mitigation. And they were usually a force of one. And all of the legal work was handled by outside counsel. You know, when you get to the mid nineties, that really had changed because outside counsel costs had increased so much. GC roles really kind of expanded because they started adding members to their teams. They started basically taking all the work in-house, and they started to become business partners kind of in the early two thousands.
Some GCs evolved that even further, and they became trusted advisors. Right now they were sitting, you know, with board matters and they'd always been supporting them to some extent, but now they were really sitting with the C e O and the boards to help develop strategy. And that's kind of flowed down throughout the legal departments as well. And as legal departments got bigger and more work has taken in-house operations has moved right along with that. Right. If you look like the late nineties, you'd find that for the most part, if there was operations, it was the GCs admin. By the early two thousands, there were a few legal departments, some Microsystems was one of them. We were dabbling with legal operations at, at very senior levels. Cisco actually was kind of ahead of that, some of the financial institutions. So, you know, there's a spectrum, and that spectrum still exists today.
You'll find legal departments that are organized so that the legal team actually ties into the C F O and then to the C E O, which is a complete miss. And those are usually still risk-based groups. You'll find a lot of legal departments that have evolved to the strategic partner level. And I would argue that the ultimate paradigm in this, and this really does tie to operations, in a lot of ways, really the ultimate paradigm is for the legal department to serve as a driver of competitive advantage for the company, right? That's what the company's goal is. It should be legal to, to help support that. So that evolution is still ongoing and it's kind of a smattering, but, it's, it's definitely pulled legal operations along with it. Cuz as the GC role has expanded, they don't always have the time and they don't have the skill sets to do strategic planning, handle all the comms, do, data analysis, develop knowledge management, but the smart ones see that, that can help them become a business partner, become a trusted advisor, and ultimately get to that competitive advantage stage.
Yeah, I really like the way you framed it because ultimately it's about delivering top line business value. The GC being the leadership of the legal department needs to align with that, but then legal operations is actually needing to align with the GC role as well. And I think you're alluding to the fact that there is so much strategic work, but also legal work in that trusted advisor role for the GC that there's, there's, it's really difficult for that one person to play all that, all those roles. Well, and so legal operations is really similar to your role back at Yahoo, the chief of staff to the gc, right? It's a, it's, it's a highly strategic, operational supportive role in that sense, right? To the gc. I,
I would phrase it a little bit differently, and this is a new tack that we're taking on it. I think historically, the way you've described is exactly historically the way people have looked at operations. It's something that kind of helps support the GC, it helps support the department. A lot of times it's looked at as an adjunct mm-hmm. <affirmative> to the departments of the GC role. I think the better way to frame this, and this is the way, you know, the, the new business that we're running now is, is framing. It is the role of the general counsel is legal operations. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, everything that the general counsel does is an operational function to deliver those services. And if you only had one person in the department, the GC would own everything from strategic planning and financial management to service delivery. And so when you think about the chief of staff role, this is really about taking that strategic plan that the GC has and serving as a multiplier fact and abstracting out from the GCs role to deliver services. It's not necessarily about efficiency, it's not necessarily about quality. It's about delivering that competitive advantage. So a more primitive approach is to say, legal operations is about efficiency, it's about technology implementation. I would argue that's the wrong way to look at it. It's really starting from the GC role and the GC strategic plan and then figuring out how you enable that
Super compelling, I wanna jump to a topic which I think a lot of people would be interested on, um, which is, you were one of the founders of Clock, not many people can say that they pioneered an entire sort of, profession and built the, the, the main professional representative body in the community behind, behind that. So what, what catalyzed you to start the clock?
So, clock really k kind of came out of a relatively natural evolution. When I started doing this in 2005, lops didn't exist, right? And there were probably, I don't know, maybe a couple dozen companies that were dabbling with it. From 2005 to 2010, we started to advance and get some ideas about what this could look like in terms of tasks. and around 2010, Connie Brenton actually started creating some regional groups. We started off on the West coast. We brought in like-minded people who were leading legal ops functions. And one of the biggest challenges that we had was there was no definition for the role. There were no job descriptions, there was no leveling, right? Was this, manager level role director, vp, the notion that it would be a chief of staff. Again, there were a couple companies that did that, but even there, they weren't clear on what that Chief of staff role meant.
So from about 2010 to 2015, Connie and I and a number of other people, mostly on the West Coast, really started thinking this through carefully. And I had created a couple of, quite frankly, ex Excel spreadsheets that listed all of the different things that OPS could do. And that then got turned into the original clock core competencies. It was ob, it was obviously before Clock, but we created those core competencies. We created some job descriptions. We started working on leveling in the companies that we were at. And then we were sitting there and we had a whole bunch of these regional groups. And Connie, I said, look, how do we take this and really formalize it and drive it through the whole legal industry? And so we kind of kept, Connie and I had this brainstorm to create a nonprofit that would then really serve as a conduit for a lot of the ideas and thoughts that we had, but mostly coalesce all of the people that were there.
And to use a Scott McNeely phrase from Sun, put all the wood behind one arrow, right? Get all these people together. And, and really the way we did that was through the annual institute. You know, the first one we had was in 2016. And then from there, it's, it's continued. So it was really about starting the definition of what this field was all about and causing GCs across the industry to start to think about it. And what's really interesting is, as powerful as Clock was at the beginning, a lot of the power in those days and in these days still resides with the providers and, and, and not the law firms, really, it's the tech providers, the service providers, because they're the ones that are messaging to executive levels and messaging every day, like this, this webinar, what the definitives are, what the current trends are, and, and that really is an amplifier, a megaphone that is every bit as powerful as anything else in the industry. So, thank you for all that you're doing to help move this forward. It really does matter.
Yeah, no, I appreciate that acknowledgement on behalf of all the vendors out there. You mentioned that that sort of 12 core competencies, which is really well known now and, you know, widely adopted and, and and spoke about. But before we, I wanna talk about that. But before we jump to that, um, I wanna talk about what you're doing right now, legal ops.com for a moment. Because since starting Clock, your role at Yahoo, you've gone and started another organization. You know, the one that you're in right now, the one you're building, legal ops.com. Can you tell us a little bit about that? What's legal ops.com?
Legal ops.com is really a continuation of, of what I just described, right? Connie and I got into this business in the first place because we wanted to drive standardization. We wanted to advance the role, wanted to advance the understanding of the role, improve the leveling, and, and really move it to a fully acknowledged discipline. And I think we've made some decent progress with that in the industry. But the new business is going to be focused on really pushing that. So the one among the things that we're looking to do are redefine what it is. We're calling this, this industry. We're no longer referring to it as legal ops, but we're changing the nomenclature to legal operations management in the same way that people talk about financial management or HR management or marketing management. We want this to be a defined industry. So some of it is about naming, which might seem superfluous.
It really does matter if you treat the discipline through your words as being dismissive. That's the problem we're referring to. What were competencies before, we're now referring to those as practice areas. Cuz again, if you think about everything that legal operations is as the role of the GC, what you think about legal practice areas like securities law or commercial, what have you, these other areas are equally important in delivering that competitive advantage. So some, some of it is changing the thought process. Some of it is continuing to define the model. So we've got a, a new, we are referring to as our pyramid, the legal operations management maturity model, where we've, we're also developing and have developed a model that's around soft skills so that we can really kind of define what the career path looks like and how do you get from sort of manager analyst level, not only to director, but ultimately to VP and to be that chief of staff.
What distinguishes that senior most level allows you to get credibility with the general counsel, or once you have that credibility to drive that credibility or, or press it throughout the business. And that really is a series of soft skills. So we've got a competency around that. And then separately from that, we're developing a platform that brings all of this together and allows people to connect throughout the course of the year when you're not in person. And then beyond that, we're actually doing an annual event as well where we can take all of this content, much of which we're developing, but a lot of it we're developing with others and utilize that annual conference as an opportunity to really bring people together, do a lot of education, collect a lot of feedback, and then continue to push it forward. And then the ultimate goal really is to create a true full curriculum that we can push back into the m programmes and the law schools so that the people coming out of those programmes already understand these concepts.
Our biggest struggle right now is that most GCs come from a securities background or a litigation background or whatever it might be. They don't have this knowledge base. And so if we can push that into the schools, that'll be critical actually, not only just for the GCs, but also for CEOs and CFOs. We need the executive teams to have a very clear understanding of what legal can do for them at a high level, how it should be organized. It shouldn't be this black box. We should have some definitions around what optimization looks like. Things like workflow, for example, should be taken for granted. It should just be assumed that if you've got a legal department, workflow is a part of it, right? Kind of like e-billing and a few other platforms that are absolutely critical. So that's, that's really what we're about. We're relatively new, but we think that we can bring a very disciplined approach to education, and just driving thought leadership.
Yeah, and I've, and I've seen some of the work that you've produced in legal ops.com. It's super impressive. So those of you who wanna get a, a really strong community and, and, and series of events, but also a, a content bed of resources that is, um, really well thought out, definitely go, check out legal ops.com or, or reach out to Jeff afterwards. Now, in terms of the 12 competencies we talked about, you talked about this new pyramid, I would love to share and talk a little bit about the pyramid here. So we've gone from the clock wheel that everyone's very familiar with the wheel to the pyramid. Walk us through this, this new, you, you're calling it not competencies, but you're calling it practice areas, right? This, this pyramid of practice areas.
Yeah, we're changing the nomenclature again to practice areas because we do want to try and uplevel the way general counsels and their direct reports think about it too. So in the same way when we started clock, we came up with competencies. In that model, again, the providers in the industry embraced it. They kind of figured out where they fit in within that, within that wheel. This model is similar. It advances a few of the concepts. There's a lot of overlay in terms of some of the, some of the language used. But what we've done is we've created a maturity model that says, look, when you start off, and I'm sharing my screen now, hopefully you can see that you really start off at this foundational level here with strategic planning being your baseline, right? Everything derives from strategic planning. Financial management is really kind of right there at the side because you're gonna have a budget.
So you can have a wonderful strategic plan, but if you can't support it financially, you're not really gonna move too quickly. Your service delivery model is foundational to what it is that you're trying to build, right? This is how you're going to deliver your service. It means what particular functions will you develop in-house? What that's again, litigation, commercial compliance, intellectual property, how much of that you're gonna support with outside counsel, how much you're gonna support with a LSPs, how much you're gonna support with staffing. And most importantly, how much are you gonna support with technology? That framework really should be a thoughtful approach that's driven by this strategic plan. I don't think that happens so much these days, quite frankly. I think GCs immediately think about, alright, I need a headcount. Well, my headcount can't cover it. I pass it over to outside counsel, you know, if I've got an issue, maybe I'll bring in staffing as opposed to having a strategic plan around all of that.
As well as technology. We already know that technology can help us enable workflow and other tools to automate some of the service delivery and, and help us balance the workload between outside counsel and inside counsel. And so it really should be part of the plan. So we've got this foundational level here. We think this is where everybody starts. Document management. We've kind of pulled out of the technology process. We think it's so foundational that it needs to be pulled on early. So we have that there. And then we move to the next level, which includes process and technology. That's where we're gonna take your next look at what you're gonna want to implement. And we've got a maturity model around that too, which I'm happy to share in a moment. Communications, vendor management, and then obviously alignment here or organizational management structure. Those are kind of initial pieces.
We find that this is where you wanna start. And from there you can do things like performance analysis, which is everything from dashboards to, going out to your client base and, and getting an idea of how they're thinking about it. So the ultimate is commoditization of legal support. In an ideal world, and I think this is where AI and chat G P T tend to come in, right? If you could reach that pinnacle, everything would be automated and you'd need no people. Um, I don't think that's ever gonna be happening to be honest with you. Certainly not in the next couple of hundred years.
But there are technologies like workflow that can enable you to automate things like nda, a creation, and you move straight to the top of the pyramid with that particular element. So this is the new view. There's a variation on this. So this is kind of the same pyramid. And what we tend to find is that there are four factors that drive which of these particular practice areas you focus on first. So clearly the strategic plan should be the cornerstone, but the size of the department, the industry that you're in and the maturity of your department are equally core pieces. Those usually should be pulled into the strategic planning process. A lot of times people don't do a real thoughtful strategic plan. So these are some sort of shortcuts to think about how you might go about prioritizing which ones of these elements. So just for example, if you've got a lot of litigation for whatever reason, if you're in the insurance business, right?
If that's what your company's all about, litigation management support is gonna be something you're gonna tackle. You know, right at, at the ground level. If you are a high tech company or you have a lot of intellectual property, you know, maybe you're a Disney type of company, practice areas support and intellectual property support from a practice area standpoint are gonna be top of mind. So these are some of the models that we're spearheading. We have a lot more detail around each one of these particular hexagons practice areas. and that's kind of partly what we're trying to get people to, to embrace and to and explore with us. Cause it isn't exactly one size fits all, but there is definitely, I think, the right way. And it does start with strategic planning.
Gotcha. We do love our hexagons here at, at checkbox, but, Melissa has, that's
Hey, Jeff, Melissa, from the live audience today has a question for you. It's a very good question. Um, she says the, it is commoditization at the top of that pyramid, the ultimate objective, um, you know, would've thought that the ideal was to commoditize a routine in order to have those internal, you know, expensive, talented in, you know, smart resources focused on the higher risk, high complexity, strategic enterprise matters. What are your thoughts around that?
I think that's right. I, I think Melissa's, I think she's spot on on that, right? If we circle back to the notion the goal of the legal department is to deliver a competitive advantage, then, then yes, there certainly is an element of having those individuals that are going to be driving that competitive advantage, focusing on that, that being said, where you can leverage technology to optimize it, and quite frankly, to eliminate the human element to bring down cost, that's kind of ideal. Let's think about one area, and there aren't a lot of these, but there are few where technology and automation can really play a critical factor. And, and one of those is compliance, specifically privacy and, and data security these days especially, and we've seen many, many cases of it where companies have had massive data breaches. Um, privacy breaches, if you have a breach, that can be the ultimate competitive disadvantage and put you almost out of business.
We saw what happened with Target a few years ago. Conversely, if you can leverage technology to really lock down the security and privacy processes, the ultimate infrastructure to secure what you have, that can actually put you in a position where people are more inclined, your customers more inclined to come to you, more inclined to buy from you than they are your competitors. You know, at some point having some level of, of support in this area is just table stakes. But if you're so far ahead of the game that your customers come to you for that, that's a competitive advantage. And that is almost fully automated. You still have to have lawyers and, and other professionals expert in privacy laws and in the architecture of the technology itself. But it is an example of bringing things to a commoditized level that really brings a competitive advantage to the company. But I, I do agree with Melissa's point, that it really is about, in many ways, enabling us to have it at the top only because to the extent that you can automate things that really is a relatively ideal state from a process standpoint.
Makes sense. And, and you talked about, for the technology process supporting Hexagon, that you had another model of maturity for evaluating tech. I've seen it before. I think it's super impressive in the way that you've, because I feel like so many people who get into legal operations are overwhelmed with the amount of technology that's actually available in the market, the number of vendors. But you've made sense of it in terms of when to bring in what and why. So walk us through a little bit, you know, your, your maturity model around bringing in certain types of technology as well. This is fascinating.
This has been one of these opportunity slash challenges from back in the day when Connie created what we referred to as the book clubs. We were all kind of looking at, okay, what technologies have you implemented and why? We were based on the West Coast. So a lot of the companies were similar, there were many of 'em were high tech. But as we started to bring companies in, in different fields, beyond that, we started to realize there still was a fairly similar process, a set of priorities. and this is kind of our current thinking, you know, whether we talk about the pyramid that I just showed you or this pyramid, we're constantly evolving that. But for small legal departments and, and even for larger legal departments, really, where you're gonna start with technology. If you're implementing solutions from an operations perspective, you're gonna wanna start with e-signature just, it's low hanging fruit and it really drives a lot of value.
It's relatively inexpensive. There are great providers out there, DocuSign, Adobe Sign, HelloSign, really good solutions that are powerful. You're gonna want to do that right away, right? To Melissa's question, it's one of those, and her point, it's one of those enabling technologies. Basic collaboration is scaling, right? You need collaboration within the legal department and ideally some collaboration outside the legal department. And really what we're talking about here is, a type of internal portal that your legal team can use to share documents, to post policies, to identify coverage models, those kinds of things are super powerful and help a legal department scale to the extent you make that portal available to your internal customers. Again, it's about getting people who are bringing work to the legal department to know where they should go. We can talk a little bit about the value of the front door on that, from that context, but basic collaboration is a starting point.
And then sales deal management, every company's gotta have to generate revenue. This isn't usually something that's driven by legal, it's usually driven by sales, but it has such a strong overlay to the legal department that ideally legal's involved in sales deal management. When we get to the next level, this is usually done during, ideally during the first 15 months. The next level on this includes basic document management. You remember, as I just showed from that pyramid, document management is a cornerstone. You've gotta get your arms around everything from your policies to your templates, to your actual signed agreements. If you don't do that early on, you're two or three years in, you're gonna have a big mess. And, and this is where the type of company you're at really matters too. If your company, for a while, we had SPACs as a big driver here.
If your company's moving towards a SPAC or you're gonna go public, having your documents in place is really powerful. Open source is a little bit specific, but these days almost every company has some technology platform that they're working with. And you wanna get your head around and your arms around open source really early on. Otherwise, you could be at a competitive disadvantage if you've got some major problems with your compliance set up. And then of course, you can see workflow, workflow really is in foundational, I would've probably put it, at, at the foundational one level, but it does require a little bit more investment in time. And at 30 months you've got enough policies, processes, there's enough things going on in the company that it's really an ideal time, a foundational time to implement that. So that would be our argument for the initial pieces. And, you know, this pyramid goes on to work through countless other technologies, but really for our purposes today, you can see workflow, is it, it's foundational.
Yeah. That's, um, super interesting. And when we talk about 30 months here, when you're referencing 30 months, we're talking about 30 months from when the legal department was set up, not when legal ops is brought in, is that right?
Yeah, I mean, I would think of it as, you know, ideally 30 months from kind of when the company's initiated even, right? You know, when you look at things like open source, that means 30 months, you're looking at three years in at that point in time. Mm-hmm. That's actually a long way in, if your company is developing software, you probably want that, you know, we're saying within the first 30 months, that might actually be within the first 12 months. Same thing with electronic signatures, right? If I was a general counsel, I would be looking to bring an electronic signature within the first 30 days. And again, depending upon the sophistication and the maturity of my company, I might bring workflow on right away too. So I've served as outside counsel over the last few years to a couple of small and medium sized companies. Interestingly enough, they were spinouts from larger companies, so they were brand new, but they already had, in one case, 300 employees globally. And they had a need for a lot of infrastructure because they were a spinout. They got a lot of code from the parent, and they were developing a lot of code. So all of these pieces to the puzzle really need to be brought on, quite frankly, during the first 15 months, if you can swing it.
Absolutely. And, and you know, you, you talk about workflow being early on here, you, you have it almost right after, um, e-signature, which I think a lot of people appreciate, um, is an early on technology, but, but workflow isn't often, I think, as much as it should be talked about as an early on, um, technology. But, but I know I've, I've, I've heard you say before that workflow would be one of the first tools you would implement if you were starting a department from scratch. Why, why do you put workflow so early on? Like, what's the reason behind it?
So one of the most important things that GC has to deal with is all of the work requests on the legal department, and especially in small and even medium-sized legal departments, large ones obviously too. There are tons of requests that are coming in. They're coming in from everywhere, from, from real estate in the workplace, from procurement, from the sales team, from, the r and d team, product development, the GCs gotta get their head around what's coming in, what are the priorities? Who's asking for it? If I have a couple lawyers on my team or whatever, legal professionals who own it, what's the status? Workflow allows you to create a front door that is awesome for purposes of allowing your clients to know where to go, right? You can use a collaboration tool as part of that, but you really don't wanna manage this through email.
It's, it's really as suboptimal as it gets, right? You, you hit a pain point, a real bad point, real fast. So workflow allows you to see what's coming in and what and where it's at. It also has another really, really powerful possibility that scales with the company and the department. And that is, it allows you to see who's doing what. And when you go to a small legal department, that's powerful just to know who owns it. When you get to medium-sized and large size legal departments as operations people pretty quickly find out if nobody's watching the hen house in terms of what lawyers are working on, what, it's amazing how many lawyers in the department will actually work on lower value, lower complexity work. a lot of times it's urgent, but not that important. And this allows you to start to do the data analysis, figure out who's doing what, and really start pushing the right work to the right resource at the right time.
That could be an internal resource, it could be a law firm, it could be an A L S P, it could be a staffing solution, it could be a technology. But if you don't have visibility, you don't have the data to figure out how many NDAs we're doing, complex, non-complex, how many test case access agreements, how many, you know, marketing documents, you're going to have a real challenge trying to figure out from a strategic planning standpoint, from a justification for resources standpoint with, with finance, really where you should be. Conversely, if you've got this data, you can now go to executive management and say, here's all of the data around what we're doing. Here's how we're supporting sales, here's how we're supporting, um, the IP team, and here's why we need more resources, why we need more budget. This is one of the biggest challenges that legal has. It's one of the biggest opportunities for legal ops to be a provider of value. And, workflow gives you a unique way of collecting that data. And depending upon the workflow solution, it might already have built in some relatively powerful dashboarding solutions. So you've already solved a part of that problem too. And almost all of them allow you to tie in a Tableau or a Power BI to do even more powerful slicing and dicing in representations as well.
Mm-hmm. I really like the concept you mentioned around it may be urgent but not important because I feel like that really speaks to the core of a lot of, um, the legal inefficiencies that, the efficient inefficiencies that legal departments face. Um, because we are a, a, a service organization to the business that, um, you know, sometimes that urgency does, does throw us into, into the manual repetitive work when in reality, as you say, if we can measure it using workflow and organize it, and perhaps a lot of workflow tools also tie into self-help and self-service tools. And, and hopefully that can be a pathway as well to, to doing some of that work. Then we can get to that, sort of that ultimate top of the pyramid situation, or at least closer to it that we were talking about before around, um, around commoditization of some of those, simpler legal services. So that's, that's really, really interesting. And, and I know that you mentioned the front door as well, that's very topical right now. I know it's been for quite a while, but I, I definitely feel like the conversations around the legal front door have really started to bubble. Why do you think that's the case as well? And why do you think workflows are the best technology to solve for the front door?
I think I've, I've described a little bit in terms of both being able to capture the work that's being done, capture who's doing it, and be able to, to look into that at some level. I think it's really becoming top of mind now because it's easier than it's ever been. You know, when I started some microsystems back in 1996, I supported a commercial transactions team. We had software deals, we had service deals, we had hardware deals. We actually had a bizarre organizational structure. We had three separate operating companies, so that meant there's three separate priorities for those particular groups. Hardware wanted its deals done, software wanted its deals done, et cetera. And they didn't care about the other ones cuz they didn't get comped on that. So having a front door to bring that in was, would, would've been really powerful. And it was all managed through email, so that was really hard.
I had to collect all of the data manually. I had to manage it through my email, which was really suboptimal. We've reached a point now where workflow can do this for you, and I think that really is why it's topical. I did a session probably five years ago, um, in, in the uk and BT presented on this, BT British Telecom is ginormous and their challenge wasn't what the small legal department has was, okay, we need to kind of get the right work to the right people. They really were all about, we need to make sure that we optimize the work that we're doing. We've got tons of requests that are coming in that probably shouldn't even be handled. So workflow actually also allows you to get visibility into risk, which I don't think a lot of people think about. I can see who's doing what, what they're doing, and how much complex work we're taking on.
I can also start to build in check marks along the way to see what types of things are being agreed to, right? I can create approval workflows. and, and a good example is when I was at, again at Sun and, and here, this is a perfect example of workflow. Again, we created, I say we lose, I was less involved in this, but my team created a workflow for open source reviews, which again, if you get those wrong and your code gets tied to the wrong kind of open source software license, you're in a potentially a world of hurt. So we spent the better part of a year, a year and a half working with IT to develop a process from requests through approvals, through training that was also built into this platform, and ultimately capturing what the approval was and where the technology that had been approved went into.
And then managing that, which was great. It allowed us to manage risk. When Sun ultimately got bought by Oracle, we had this amazing database so that all of the m and a lawyers could look at this and see just exactly how we had managed it and that we were, that we had no open source licenses that were a problem across thousands of software products and, and actually related hardware software pro com combinations. So, these days with workflow, you can build that same workflow probably in, I would imagine if with diligence, you could probably do it in six weeks and it would be truly comprehensive if you dedicated yourself and had some good, good talent on it. It's that kind of game changer. So, um, and I, and I think it's prevalent these days because legal departments are under cost pressures. They always need more headcount.
And again, workflow gives you a quick solution, low code, no code, right? Again, we had to work with it, the legal department wasn't building this, and if we wanted to make a change to our work or process, we had to go to it, get on their list. We didn't even have ServiceNow in those days. So, you know, it was literally an email request. Anyway, I'm moving a little bit deep in this, but you get the sense of how powerful workflow can be and the tools there like checkbox really allow you to do that. Coney Brenton over at, NetApp has implemented approximately 160 workflows. We probably did about 20 at Yahoo when I was there. And they were powerful workflows and, and really impacted the bottom line. But she's gone through everything that almost everything that legal does is a process. And most of them involve some kind of approval.
They usually require a number of people to take a look at it. They often require groups outside of legal, hr, finance, real estate. You can solve all of those workflows. And that's the other powerful thing about workflow is even if you take a, a, a product like checkbox and implement it within legal has other business units within the company see it and see how powerful it is, they want it too. And legal can actually, because a lot of times you've developed the expertise to build those workflows. You can start to provide that value to other departments and maybe even get to that competitive advantage piece. Again,
Very, very compelling and, and I, and I want to actually, um, I know there's some questions that have come through from the live live audience. We'll get to those in a moment, but, but I've, I've got a, I've got a question following that. You know, we talked about the front door as being sort of a, a, a, a term that's sort of widely, or or emerging, um, in the department, in the, in the industry. But another one that has been around for a while, and I think almost where people jump to immediately is CLM contract lifecycle management. I don't think I saw it on the foundational level. In your immaturity model, are you saying that workflow comes before clm? And if so, why? Because I tend to see in the industry perhaps, a default to implementing CLM when people first try to make a change in the legal department.
Well, CLM is one workflow, right? I mean, it's contract life cycle management. So it is a specific workflow, one very specific type within a legal department since it ties into typical sales, it's important and it can be very powerful. CLM has been around for a long time. We were looking to implement CLM back in 2008 when I was at, at Sun. I won't use the name of the company that we were trying to implement. We never actually did implement it. it, because CLM has potentially an exponential factor in driving sales, which is powerful. It's something people look at. It's an important pain point. Workflow, however, is workflow tools like checkbox and others in the industry are less specific, right? They are open to any type of workflow, depending upon the platform like a checkbox. You can in many cases create your own type of CLM solution.
A lot of times you can cover off on the most important parts of the workflow that you're looking to solve for the implementation is easier. The other thing is that there's a lot of complexity just in the CLM space. Anybody that's looking at this knows that there's pre signature and post-signature. There are some platforms that really do claim and probably even offer almost a complete end-to-end platform, but it takes time to implement that. There's a tonne of change management around it. And so it's hard. It's hard. And that's why we don't typically see that until you're probably at the advanced level in this pyramid. Whereas workflow is something that's powerful, right at the, and you can build on it. You might get to a point later on where we have both workflow and CLM, but workflow is actually a really nice learning basis for CLM because you start to learn how to map out a workflow, how to splice it, you start to understand the different elements that can be part of a workflow document repositories, the e-signature components, integration with third party, components. So even with CLM, a lot of times you're tying into your sales deal management, solution that you've got here. You can already do that with workflow. So I think workflow is, is, a great starting point. You might not even need CLM, or it's at least a complete solution if you have workflow and, and separately because workflow allows you to capture a lot of the pieces and do what you want to do. It's kind of a nice starting point for change management with the lawyers on your team.
Mm. It's almost like it's, it's, it's about finding the right size fit, at that point in your maturity cycle. And, um, sometimes I think people may bring in CLM when it's, it's still too early, right? And they're, they're almost just using it as a workflow tool, but without necessarily the flexibility or, um, perhaps the cost efficiency I think is a big part of it. CLMs can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, based upon the pricing model to do effectively. Um, what is, what is a workflow within, within the, the CLM system? Is that a fair comment as well? You
Agree? Think that's a fair statement. Again, I wouldn't, I wouldn't necessarily, these days, CLM is not one thing, right? It is a highly fractured market. And so you've got some of the platforms out there that again, are kind of end to end, and then you've got more point solutions, which are really interesting and could be a powerful add-on with workflow. not necessarily all workflow solutions. A allows a real deep dive into all of your data. So, you know, certain platforms out there that allow you on the CLM side that are very narrow, that could be a nice add-on, but you can do so much with, with workflow and because it's low-code, no-code, you can build very simple workflows and build from there. It's more complex. And, and that really is just the, the, the return on investment is huge. The other piece to it is what you're trying to solve for in clm, a lot of times, again, you can solve those key points with the right low-code, no-code, workflow.
And, and really what you're trying to do is you're trying to shorten the cycle time, especially in sales between the request for an agreement and ultimate signature, right? That's what you want to get to. If you can narrow the time down, the return on investment, the return on the opportunity is almost exponential. So if over the course of a year you reduce your cycle time on your sales contracts from three months to one month, the amount that that hits your bottom line in terms of dollars is huge. And a lot of those approvals get documents for review. You can do that with, with workflow technologies.
Interesting. And, just to answer Sarah's question that's been sitting there for a while, um, she said, can you explain the difference between workflow tools and collaboration tools? I think, you know, what's interesting is a lot of people, um, hear the word workflow, they hear it a lot as part of maybe a feature in other tools like clm, has workflow and, and, and, and e-billing tools have workflow, but workflow as a technology is different from that and different from collaboration. So how would you best sort of clarify that for Sarah?
Yeah, so what I'm thinking of workflow, I'm thinking of basically an internal legal portal. So this is something that you would, you would build on your intranet, and it's basically, an area on the, on your intranet that is, has two purposes. One would be for the lawyers only, and another one would be a collaboration solution that you utilize with your clients. I understand that there, there're collaboration solutions out there that are more specific to, um, we'll, we'll bring a number of people in around a project. So that's not the type of collaboration tool I'm thinking about here. This collaboration is really more about a knowledge base. Um, it's a, it's an area where your legal team can come in and you'll have everything from, again, your policies, your processes, your templates there, where people can pull those down. You'll have organizational charts, coverage models.
We typically, when I build these, I build them early and I usually have links to specific tools. So your workflow solution, you might kick off workflows from your internal legal portal for the legal department. Your clients could come to that collaboration site. And one of the workflows might be a request for this is where a lot of times your, um, your front door could live, although typically the front door lives on the company site, but this collaboration tool is really about, um, an area where the team can get and exchange information and, and find out how to do things.
Mm-hmm. I think my, my, my view on it or, or my, my simple definition to it is collaboration tools. Perhaps in, in the way that Sarah, um, phrased it, um, is more sort of ad hoc, bringing people together to, as you say, work on maybe a, a single thing. whereas workflow is more process, in the way that we talk about workflow tools in this, in, in this industry. It's, it's actually launching those workflows, launching those processes, and taking people through a, a defined business process to either get an answer from a knowledge base or to generate a document in the, in the case of sort of self-service contracting, um, or perhaps to collect a series of approvals when you're looking to execute a document or, um, some sort of other, you know, company or, or regulatory, defined compliance process. So it's more process, and, and, and business rules, as opposed to sort of an ad hoc, um, collaboration on a document or collaboration in the sense of maybe, um, like a project management tool, right?
Yeah, I think that's exactly right. You know, when we think about workflow, just the word workflow as opposed to automated workflow, a workflow is a series of steps typically undertaken by one or more individuals. It's a defined set of steps with ideally a defined outcome, right? So for example, I have an approval process for a budget for a new matter. I'm gonna open up my e-billing tool. It's a series of steps that need to be taken, carried out. You've got an initial request to open up a matter in your, in your e-billing tool. You've got a budget request. And so there's a number of steps that might usually get carried out these days or in my day through email, right? The email was the workflow tool in the old days. Now you define all of those steps that people are taking. Maybe in the old days, actually the real old days before you billing, and I was around long enough, we actually carried the hard copies of outside counsel's bills from one person to another to review the bill and check them off.
Now, in workflow, you take those steps, the document itself comes in, in PDF, you identify who the individuals are, it automatically routes that request for a review and approval to the right people. And again, if it's complex enough, you can tie it into your HR solution so that the right level of approvals is there. So we take a manual process, relatively manual, and now we fully automate it by using a checkbox so that every one of those steps, no human needs to touch it other than within the workflow. And at the end, it's also documented within the workflow, which is a huge, powerful piece too. And that's compliance. We never even talked about that, Evan, but that's another reason that the front door is also powerful, because on the backend, you've got that check mark, whether that process was completed, whether the right steps were followed. Um, for example, in in signature authority, matrices can all be built into that. That's really powerful. You know, that when you've gone through that process and there's a check mark, checkbox check mark, you, you know, that you have met compliance and again, for auditors at the end of the year or if you're going through an acquisition or divestiture, having all that documented again is really powerful.
Absolutely. And, I I, I'm just mindful of time. We could talk about this for ages, and you and I always have our pow wows around these, these topics. Um, and, and I'm sure people would love to hear more, but, um, we'll probably have to wrap up here. and really, you know, thank you so much Jeff, for your time. It's been super insightful. I think these topics, you know, having someone who's been through the whole legal ops evolution and also, you know, hands-on with workflow throughout your career, it's been super, super insightful. Um, legal ops.com is doing some super exciting stuff. Where can people learn more, get involved? I know you have, um, a workflow automation user group being pulled together as well. For the people who are a bit more hands-on, on tools like checkbox, um, where, where can they reach out to you? How can they get more involved with legal ops.com, Jeff?
Yeah, so a few things we've got, we've got going on just to kind of give a shout out to that user group. So one of the things we're doing with legal ops.com is creating a number of verticals, e-billing workflows and a couple of others where we're bringing individuals together to look at all of the different types of workflow solutions that are in the industry. We're focusing specifically on automated workflows as opposed to R P A, or some of the expert platforms. And then this user group is gonna look at all of those, put together template RFPs, put together a list of critical functionalities and features, and we're working with companies like yours to get sandboxes together. So those people that want to develop an expertise can do that and ultimately will probably create a, a certification programme so those individuals can be seen as leaders in the automated workflow space separately, you know, getting involved with legal ops.com, if you are a legal ops professional, you can go to the url legal ops.com and sign up to get onto our larger platform. And as you mentioned earlier, we're having an event October 15th through 18th. The 15th is all gonna be about developing yourself professionally and our soft skills. It's gonna be fantastic. And the other two and a half days will be educational and we're gonna have GCs there as well as legal ops professionals. And, I know checkbox will be there and we're gonna be doing workshops and a lot of other real sort of educational and hands-on kind of learning things at that event. So I'll hope, hopefully see all of you there.
Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for the shout out on that one.
No, absolutely. I'll be there as well for sure. So I look forward to connecting with everyone then. But, otherwise thank you everyone for attending this session today. I learned a lot, I had lots of fun. Um, I'm sure you did as well. And again, thank you Jeff. You've been fantastic and I look forward to chatting again real soon outside of the microphone and, and, and the, episode today. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Go With the Workflow. If you found it valuable, you can subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app like Spotify or Apple Podcast. Also, please consider giving us a rating or leave a review, as that really helps other listeners find the podcast too. That's all for now, so we'll see you at the next episode.