Productizing Your Corporate Legal Department’s Services: Getting Started

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The 2021 CLOC conference focused a lot on applying product principles to legal services. General Counsel are often in the position of having to show the value of their team’s services and why, as a cost center, it makes sense to continue to grow their department or to buy technology to support their department. In addition to showing that value, there is pressure to be more efficient while providing excellent customer services. By productizing services, you can provide repeatable, measurable solutions that address the needs above. There is also the great benefit of being connected to your client’s needs by providing the services that match the most pervasive and urgent needs. However, if you don’t have a background in product management, how does one go about productizing legal services, and what does that even mean? As someone who is Pragmatic Marketing Certified through the Pragmatic Institute, I am here to help. This blog, and the blog series to follow, will show you how to get started, interview people internally to understand the needs, position your existing solutions internally, and make build vs. buy vs. outsourcing decisions. Let’s start with a high-level overview of where to begin.

What does productizing legal services mean? Productizing your legal services focuses on creating solutions that apply to multiple customers in a repeatable way. This means that you first have to understand your customers’ problems by listening, asking, and observing. It then means that you create several repeatable processes to address those problems. Finally, it means you market those solutions internally and show how they bring value to the business. Taking it one step further, it also means that you leverage technology to support these services and continue to develop and improve the services based on feedback.

So how does one go about creating these solutions inside a legal team? The first step is all about understanding the needs of the business. You can look internally at the requests the legal department receives to get an understanding of what the business is coming to the legal department for. Next, you want to speak to leaders from different groups in the business to understand what legal needs exist that are not coming into the legal department but should be addressed. Which leaders to speak to will depend a bit on your organization but I would recommend connecting with the following, at minimum: sales, finance, engineering (or product) as well as regional leaders in any key regions. More on this to come in my next blog on interviewing people internally to understand the organization’s needs.

Once you have the information, it is helpful to create a list. I like to use the format below:

Problems to Solve

Formatted table to help create a list of problems to solve.

Once you have a pretty solid list, you should brainstorm high-level recommended solutions (not the detailed how). This will include things like solving a certain need through documentation (e.g. a “how-to guide” or a template contract). It may include things like facilitating the intake of legal requests or facilitating access to contract information. Once you have your list of potential solutions, there are two next steps. For the set of existing solutions, you should group those into categories and make sure that you are adequately marketing and reporting on those (more on this in a future post). For the set of solutions that are future state, identify how you are going to address this need. When looking at the gaps, I like to categorize the gaps in the following ways so I can understand the budget impact and the division of work.Note that urgency speaks to how quickly the need needs to be solved overall and not necessarily the urgency of a specific request. For example, it speaks to how urgently people need a contract database as opposed to how quickly someone needs information about a specific contract. Pervasiveness addresses how many internal departments/employees have this need. Is it centered around just a small group within one department or is it a need expressed by multiple departments? The relationship to the company strategy should be focused on how much this need moves the business forward. Does it facilitate the company’s #1 strategy? When you complete this list, I recommend grouping it into like needs. If there are overlapping needs, you may want to create a consolidated item but make sure you capture the pervasiveness of it.

Recommendations for Filling The Gaps

Formatted table to help create a list of recommendations to fill the gaps.

By going through the above process you will have a good understanding of the various needs and solutions in your organization. In the next blog in the series, I will overview how to interview people internally to understand the organization’s needs.

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