Quoting the words of Staples, Inc., General Counsel and Company Secretary Michael
Williams, Swan says, “We don’t want to be the ‘Department of No.’ We wanted to
encourage and enable the new lines of business with systems, processes, and
plain-language practical advice and contracts.”
As part of the digitization effort, the legal department created an electronic “front door,” a
single process anyone can use to request legal assistance. They also helped the rest of the
organization to develop skills and understanding to enable more discretion and self-service.
Through group training sessions, train-the-trainer activities, online modules, and using
every touch point as one-on-one coaching opportunities, the sales team was educated and
empowered on a range of topics such as contract law, nondisclosure agreements, workplace
rights and wrongs, ethics, and competition law.
Gaining alignment with the priorities of the business was key to the success of these efforts;
while it’s critical, it need not be onerous or formal, Swan says. “I’m a big supporter of catching
up with clients, finding informal opportunities to learn what they want and what they may
not be happy about.” They are certainly happy about these results: The legal department cut
its workload on low-risk transactional services by 40 percent, positioning the in-house team
to take on more high-value projects and leading to a reduction in outside legal spend by more
than 50 percent.
WORK ALLOCATION: UNBUNDLING, AUTOMATION,
AND VALUE–BASED STAFFING
As part of its value journey, Westpac Banking Group Compliance, Legal & Secretariat (CLS)
combined rigorous data capture and analysis with process simplification and redesign,
implementing 27 initiatives to unbundle departmental work, enable client self-service, and
bring higher-value work in-house. For example, intranet sites were redesigned to incorporate
self-service information and reduce the volume of telephone inquiries. Legal department staff
re-negotiated risk parameters with business partners to eliminate the need for legal review of
certain low-risk documentation (also an excellent example of alignment).
Having completed the Value Matrix, you now have a clear picture of the work your department
is handling and where it falls in terms of risk potential and impact on corporate advantage.
Next, it’s important to pursue thoughtful work allocation to ensure that the right people are
delivering the right services at the right time. This determination is based on decisions related
to resourcing and staffing assignments, and identification of areas where the current level of
effort is not aligned with the value ranking.