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Offering Simple, Practical Information For Legal Departments

Six Mistakes You Can Avoid with Business Unit Reporting

June 18 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.

A 2017 roundup of the most common mistakes in-house lawyers make is chilling reading, to be sure – but it’s also a striking reminder that proactive communication can prevent many pitfalls. Indeed, of the 14 errors outlined by Barker Gilmore, six speak directly to the need for information flow between the Legal Department and the business units. 

Smart, regular reporting can help you avoid:

  • Explaining things to business people in heavy legalese.
    When reporting evolves from text-heavy memos to action-oriented dashboards, the Legal Department starts to speak the language of business. (Consider how Marketing, IT and Finance report – they use charts and graphs, not lawyerly paragraphs.) 
  • Offering advice that doesn’t correspond to the business strategy. 
    Smart Legal Departments will track and report their matters by strategic value. This mandates an alignment of legal work with corporate objectives, and allows the Legal Department to quickly demonstrate how it is working to advance the goals of the business – not just functioning as the “Department of No.”
  • Failing to integrate with other departments. 
    The preparation and delivery of regular reports prompts routine discussion with business unit heads. This shows each business unit what exactly the Legal Department is doing for them – whether that’s clearing new trademarks, 
    negotiating contracts or monitoring new regulation – and provides an opportunity for proactive discussion of what’s next. 
  • Taking on too much work for business units. 
    Without information and context, business unit heads operate in a vacuum; they will not necessarily understand why all of their requests are not top priority (or even possible). A smart report can show the amount of work you are handling for them and the resources consumed – while also showing how the business unit fits in the big picture of legal risk, strategy and budget. This can empower you to say no…and it might inspire both sides to look for ways to eliminate, automate or streamline routine work.  
  • Failing to understand your company’s accepted risk tolerance

    Just as risk comes in many varieties – legal, regulatory, financial, et cetera – so do the risk profiles and challenges of your business units. No business unit wants to embarrass the organization. Show IT your work supporting data security; show HR how employee claims are trending. 
  • Failing to gain clients’ trust. 
    According to loyalty expert 
    James Kane, there are four elements of trust in business relationships: Competence (knowledge to do the work); character (behaving ethically); consistency (delivering reliably); and capacity (resources to do the work). Regular reports – such as those prepared quarterly – establish consistency and reinforce your competence, character and capacity.
So what do these reports look like?

Download our latest white paper, Best-in-Class Legal Reporting, today. You will receive tips for content, cadence and delivery, as well as sample reports and practical guidance for collecting and illustrating your data.  
Download White Paper

And with legal data analytics software, such as Xakia, these reports can be automated – allowing you to build your relationships without burning time on manual reports.
To learn more, 
book a demo today. 

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