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Ask Emily: How Do I Establish Legal as a Resource, Not a Roadblock?

Emily See 2

Emily See, Legal Operations Manager at Procore, is Ironclad's resident advice columnist for Legal Matters, Ironclad's monthly newsletter. 

Dear Emily,
How do you change perception of your legal/legal ops team as a partner not a gatekeeper? How do I build relationships and avoid instilling fear around change?
Thanks for your help,
Ryan, contracts manager at a fintech company

Dear Ryan,

Change starts at home. Take a hard look at the culture of your Legal department. What are you offering the company? Do you have department goals or OKRs? A service-level agreement with your stakeholders? Or did your department get its reputation as a gatekeeper by only saying no without offering solutions?

Spread the word, build relationships

Once you have your department on track, it’s time to communicate that culture to the rest of the company. I’m lucky enough to get to talk to about Legal's role in the company with every new employee during our onboarding week. It helps establish from day one that Legal is an ally, not a monolithic, necessary evil.

Beyond onboarding, you can start cultivating relationships with key stakeholders by sitting down, face to face, and asking about their plans and pain points. Identify concrete ways you can help where needed. If you do spot risks in their plans, show them that if they get Legal involved from the beginning you can brainstorm a solution with them so they won’t lose time or have to redo work.

Walk your talk

If you want to be seen as a resource and not a roadblock, you have to walk your talk. It can be a big challenge if you're already under-resourced. Identify where Legal is creating a bottleneck, and give people self-service resources there whenever possible. How much can be automated? NDAs, standard customer order forms, and event T&Cs are low-hanging fruit. They often require zero touch from Legal and stakeholders are thrilled to get results instantly—no gatekeeper needed.  

Have a burning question about legal ops for Emily? Email community@ironcladapp.com.

About Emily

Emily grew up on a very rustic property in the mountains of Southern California before running off to Boston for school. She realized California wasn’t all that bad, so she returned as soon as she could. She will always have a place in her heart for hiking, vintage cardigan sweaters, raising chickens, and unreliable Italian automobiles. Emily spent 15 years as an editor before realizing she loved contracts more than anything in the world. 

About Procore

Procore is a leading provider of cloud-based applications for construction. Procore connects people, applications, and devices through a unified platform to help construction professionals manage risk and build quality projects—safely, on time, and within budget. Procore has a diversified business model with products for Project Management, Construction Financials, Quality & Safety, and Field Productivity. Headquartered in Carpinteria, California, with offices around the globe, Procore is used to manage billions of dollars in annual construction volume.

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