Reporting for Legal Department Stakeholders Part 2: CEO and Board

Reporting gives legal departments an opportunity to connect with your stakeholders and share critical information. In this blog, we’ll cover your organization’s top leaders: the CEO and board.

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 legal reporting by audience. In short, who needs to know what?

Legal reporting for your CEO and Board

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 legal report can boost your relationships with your highest-ranking stakeholders by putting the in-house 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 when reporting to the CEO and Board.

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 legal reports should focus on three key themes, reflective of the survey responses shown above.

legal analytics software - legal reports

1. Risk

Provide a look at the organization’s most high-risk legal matters, then drill down into the individual business units. This will help your CEO and Board 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.

2. Strategy

How is your in-house Legal Department advancing the priorities set forth by the CEO and the Board? Our legal reporting white paper guide to the mechanics of legal department reporting will show you how to illustrate your work’s strategic value with data. Check out our blog to learn how you can use data to align your legal department with business goals.

3. Budget

This may be optional for your Board, depending on its level of interest, but 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 legal 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 legal 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.

Download our legal department reporting white paper to get started

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.

Moreover, with Xakia's legal analytics software, these legal department 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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