14th November 2019
14th November 2019
By Charles Dimov, VP Marketing North America at ContractPodAi
Should you ever be invited to attend a Consero General Counsel Forum, or similar event – DO IT. Yes - they always choose such exciting venues. But more importantly, they are truly excellent programs, keeping you abreast of the latest. Naturally, that includes educational sessions, workshops, and seminars. In many cases, the seminars and workshops count toward your CLE credits. But in addition to this, a Consero General Counsel Forum is also an exceptional opportunity to network with other senior attorneys like yourself. This last point is the most compelling and important aspect by far.
Like the General Counsel Conference event in New York and Association of Corporate Counsel Annual Meeting in Phoenix, the Consero event included good networking time and educational seminars. However, these events focus on a more intimate setting and series of seminars. That's important because so much of the learning comes from the experience of other senior General Counsels.
The latest event was held this past week at the Fashion Island Hotel, in Newport Beach California. Certainly, a delightful location and venue unto itself. Newport Beach is driving distance from Hollywood, Disneyland, and of course, is part of the Greater Los Angeles city area.
Starting Sunday, we dove into a topic of growing importance. Several GCs openly admitted that until recently, there really were no specific KPIs (key performance indicators), OKRs (objectives & key results), or metrics against which legal was strictly held. For legal departments, setting metrics and objectives are less clear than doing so for a sales, marketing, or manufacturing teams. However, more organizations are starting to hold legal teams accountable to goals and stretch targets.
Some panelists found that they simply could not show the CEO what progress the team was making. There has traditionally been little data on legal. It is important to set metrics, start observations, and continually experiment. But a proviso noted by Mark Bonora is that: “establishing metrics alone will NOT help change your culture.” Rather, that must come with time and consistent follow-up.
An important lesson from the panel is that setting the metrics, base-lining them, and score-boarding the objective is important. In fact, several GCs agreed that score-boarding your team's KPIs makes it into a game. In fact, turning your team goals into a game is an excellent way to engage the full team, and to strive for the stretch goals. Then, several panelists mentioned the importance of continuously reviewing the scoreboard. Go through the KPIs at monthly team meetings, for example.
Some of the most powerful and practical lessons of the event came from peer networks. A great example was the 7:00 am breakfast session on ‘Managing a Worldwide Legal Staff.’ As a part of the breakfast, attendees grouped to discuss their experiences, challenges, and solutions for leading staff around the world. Discussions evolved about staffing challenges in China, Japan, Costa Rica, India, Western and Eastern European, and other spots. Since this session was not moderated, highly engaging, informal questions came within each group. Everything from 'which local firms were best for outsourcing at reasonable prices', to 'the challenges of setting English language standards for the organization'. There were even difficult, yet important discussions about dealing with the international politics. That involved the when and how to release certain politically disruptive employees in local regions. Again, this is simply not the type of business advice you will find in a business magazine.
Being a marketer and guest at the Consero General Counsel Forum, this topic was particularly dear to my heart.
Most importantly, and the root of the panel discussion – 45% of companies that emerged stronger after a crisis had some similarities.
Key lessons from the panelists were varied. One is that a crisis can emerge from anywhere, and can grow fast. There is no surprise that social media means crises can grow in attention from a 10,000 follower awareness to 100,000 within a matter of 20-40 minutes. Monitor social channels regularly!
Asked about defining a crisis, Jared Sine observed that, “a lot of it is a gut check – many times what you think will become a crisis does not become one, and many times things what you think will not be a crisis – become big ones.” In this regard, Steven Siger pointed out that “you need to define clear escalation paths to the right people who can see the full picture, and know how to handle it. You don’t need everyone to know how to handle a crisis. But, you need everyone to know how to escalate it to the right people.”
Mike Bayer of Fender wisely advised that “you cannot plan for every scenario. But, crisis plan preparation covers much.” He also added that it is extremely important to, “be thoughtful, be respectful, be timely."
Eric Hildenbrand of McLane Company wisely advised, “don’t put anything in writing that you don’t want to see on the New York Times.”
Moderated by our very own Bob Grier, VP Sales, North America West – the session included a few customers, as well as GCs considering new systems.
The core reason that a GC considers a CM system is to free up the legal team’s time. That lets the legal team focus on higher-value functions, rather than focusing on a mundane repetitive task like creating an NDA. The way in-house attorneys focus on strategic, business-oriented issues. This while allowing the paralegals, contract managers, or legal operations staff to work on tasks that don’t need a lawyer.
However, the group brought up some epic failures from their experiences with earlier providers. Some examples were particularly scary. In one GCs case, after 3 years of integration and implementation work, the project was finally canceled. The team NEVER got it to work. Frankly, any admission or discussion about a two or three year rollout - is just too slow. It will doom your project to failure. Speed of deployment is important.
Although not intended to veer toward nightmare scenarios, the discussion brought up the importance of end-to-end (E2E) contract management. It also highlighted the importance of having solid integration/implementation services to which the vendor commits.
By sheer chance, there were two of our own clients in this audience. They both commented positively about the implementation process. This is exactly the opportunity an event like the Consero General Counsel Forum provides to attendees. It gives you the benefit of learning from other GC experiences. In this case, the GCs around the table highlighted the importance of building consensus internally. It ensures the system is used beyond just the legal team. That’s when you truly get the full benefit of an E2E contract lifecycle management (CLM) system like ContractPodAi.
The Consero General Counsel Forum was a fun. There was plenty of networking time, and educational programs. In addition to the CLE credits, the networking, and panel sessions were truly impactful learning vehicles. Hence the premise of the opening discussion. Should you ever be invited to attend a Consero General Counsel Forum – ACCEPT!
VP Marketing, North America
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