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Offering Simple, Practical Information For Legal Departments

Reporting for Legal Department Stakeholders, Part 2: CEO and Board

July 15 2019 by Jodie Baker

Reporting should be more than a necessary evil: It’s an opportunity to connect with your Legal Department’s stakeholders and share critical information. This series will address the art and science of reporting by audience. In short, who needs to know what?
First up: your business unit clients.

In Great Expectations: What CEOs Want in a GC, Morrison Foerster put it exactly right: “Here’s the good news: Your CEO needs your business acumen, judgment and analytical skills more than ever. The bad news: Your CEO’s expectations of you have likely never been higher.” 

Indeed, today’s CEO needs more than a lawyer. This is evident in a recent survey by the New York Stock Exchange, which asked corporate directors and executive officers how general counsel could add the most value to their organizations. Among their responses:

  • Act as a proactive adviser to the board – 79 percent 
  • Act as a proactive adviser to the CEO – 73 percent 
  • Offer risk analysis expertise – 37 percent 
  • Contribute to business strategy discussion – 24 percent 
  • Support the execution of the business plan – 17 percent 

Notably missing from this list: The simple execution of legal work. 

A well-constructed report can boost your relationships with your highest-ranking stakeholders by putting the Legal Department in the context of the business. If you’ve been relying on a quarterly memo, it may be time for a pivot: Visual charts and graphs will make your case far more effectively than a text-heavy document.

As one general counsel (and Xakia user) put it, lawyers think in blocks of text; business people think in charts and graphs. 

Your executives and directors may be your most time-crunched demographic. Make it easy for them. What are the most critical pieces of information for the individuals responsible for the success of the organization as a whole? 

Your top-level reports should focus on three key themes, reflective of the survey responses shown above: 

  • Risk.  Provide a look at the organization’s most high-risk matters, then drill down into the individual business units. This will help your leaders spot trends in the business more broadly. And if you can show them how risk varies across geographies, product lines or business units, or how risk intensifies in one particular segment, you are well-positioned to start proactive discussions about diagnosing or mitigating the risk. 
  • Strategy. How is your Legal Department advancing the priorities set forth by the CEO and the board? Our white paper guide to the mechanics of legal reporting will show you how to illustrate your work’s strategic value with data. 
  • Budget. This may be optional for your board, depending on its level of interest; it’s a must for your CEO. Neither audience needs the accounting detail. Instead, think about graphics that can quickly show the top brass how legal resources are being used. 

For a truly impactful report, combine the elements of risk, strategy and budget together. How much of your budget is going to high-risk and critical matters versus low-stakes queries? What percentage of your budget is going to high-strategic-value work versus matters that simply keep the lights on? 

It’s metrics like these that will take your Legal Department from being perceived as a cost center to getting a seat at the table as a proactive adviser. 

We recognize that creating different reporting formats can sound formidable. We’re here to help: Download our guide, Best-in-Class Legal Reporting, and see clear instructions for content, cadence and delivery – and handy examples.   

Download White Paper

Moreover, with Xakia, these reports can be automated, so you can get attractive, actionable reports – without adding to your to-do list. To learn more, book a demo today.

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