In our last article "Make an Impression: Tips for an Effective Legal Education Webinar" published here last month, we discussed strategies law firms can use to create and host an effective continuing legal education webinar for their clients. We received such an overwhelming response to that article from our own clients that we decided to assemble our tips for inhouse counsel to create and present their own trainings for procurement, contract specialist and business clients at their own companies.
In house counsel know that the more effective the contract negotiators on their team are, the easier it is to get the deal done quickly and efficiently. This is true not only for those individuals with legal training, but also for the non-legal participants in the process. However, it is one thing to know this and quite another thing to make the rest of the team excited about indemnities and limitations of liability. Many of the tips we included in our prior article can be applied to an inhouse, business-focused contracts training, but here are some additional suggestions that can help you build and strengthen the bridge between legal and the business teams.
- Define Your Objectives Before you Develop the Training. Your training will be most successful if you consider in advance what you hope to achieve. Is your goal to give business people approved fallback positions? Do you hope to increase their overall knowledge and understanding of the legal terms? More importantly, ask key managers and participants what they hope to learn or get out of the training. It is only by identifying a few key goals that you and your business clients hope to achieve that you can appropriately tailor your content.
- Get Buy-In Up Front. Ask key managers to communicate to participants that the training is important and all participants should be and remain present throughout. Ask attendees to put cell phones and laptops away and to fully participate in the training.
- Keep Things Simple and High Level. Explain only what the business people should and need to know to do their jobs effectively. It would be great if everyone understood every nuance of key risk allocation provisions, but it takes most lawyers years of practice to master these intricacies. Keeping your presentation focused on a clear and concise explanation of the big picture will make your presentation more engaging, understandable and effective.
- Put Yourself in the Business’ Shoes. Do your negotiations always get hung up on the same key issues? Do your business clients glaze over or punt on risk allocation provisions? Try to frame all issues in terms of why the business should care about them and what realistically could happen if they do not. We all like to win the argument, but your business clients will see you as a team player if you only focus on the issues that truly affect the bottom line.
- Use Real World, Relevant Examples. Hopefully your organization has not litigated any if its contracts, but if you have, the lessons learned from these real world examples will stay with your clients long after your trainings ends. If you do not have any cautionary tales to rely on, try to contextualize the discussion of contractual elements by using examples from real negotiations and possible issues that could arise in your organization or industry. The more relevant you make the conversation to the actual needs and concerns of your internal business clients, the more they will learn from your training.
- Be Clear About Processes and Escalations. Are there things you need from the business in order to make yourself more effective? The more information you can provide to your business clients about their role in the overall negotiation and contract finalization process, the more efficiently you will move through negotiations. Identify and explain the need for any required forms and deal information that will permit you to more efficiently review the contract. Explain why certain issues require escalation and identify to whom the escalations must be made.
- Make it Interactive. The business teams are busy and getting a lot of revenue generators into a room to focus on legal contracts can be hard to do. You will want to capitalize on their time and attention. One way to ensure engagement and participation is to find a way to interact with the group instead of talking at them. Use negotiation scenario hypotheticals and encourage break out groups to brainstorm solutions. Then have groups share their suggestions. Online polls drive participation and allow you to present a variety of solutions.
- Prepare and Consider Your Time. Do not try to wing it and have enough substantive content for the time allotted. There is no substitute for being prepared and fully covering all the material. To ensure that you cover key topics, put them first in the presentation, leaving the easier topics for later when participants are more tired and have less ability to focus.
- Take Questions. At the end of the day, the goal of your training is to help your business clients get their deals done. Make sure they understand what you have presented. It would be a bigger win to cover only a portion of the materials but to be sure that everyone understood what was covered than to rush through the entire presentation and have people leave your presentation confused. Let participants know up front that questions are welcome and how they can submit questions. Provide your contact information and encourage people to send questions after the presentation.
Business people will never care as much about contract terms as the lawyers, but by offering an effective in house training of your contractual terms and goals, you can strengthen the relationship between legal and the business and hopefully, negotiate better deals.