Anna Golovsky, head of operations for legal and governance at AMP, spoke recently at the annual CLOC Australia Institute Conference, held in Sydney earlier this month.
During the opening session of day two, Ms Golovsky was joined by fellow CLOC members Cisco's Steve Harmon, and Gap Inc.’s Mike Haven, where the trio discussed the value of incorporating legal operations into their companies’ respective legal departments, and how to get the role off the ground if there’s some hesitation to introduce it into the business.
Until February this year, Ms Golovsky was the senior legal counsel for AMP’s commercial legal arm before she was appointed to the newly created role of head of operations for legal and governance.
Speaking to the crowd, she told the story of how she was able to mitigate the challenges that come with introducing this kind of resource, particularly when a core focus for many in-house teams is to do more with less.
“It’s a role that didn't exist eight months ago and one that I've been championing to be created for quite some time,” Ms Golovsky said.
“There are some challenges to overcome, obviously. You have to get into the ear of your general counsel and to be committed to understanding the importance of the role. But also you need to get budget, you need to get traction, to get people interested in changing what they're doing and how they're doing it and that's the journey that I've been on.”
To get her role off the ground, Ms Golovsky said there were three core competencies she honed in on - finance, partner management and technology.
“…In the finance bucket, I'm focusing on improving and automating the reporting that we're getting on our external links and spend, and the way our internal legal resources are allocating their time. I'm [also] putting in a big focus on developing capability around funding requests,” she explained.
“[This is] recognising that funding is critical to the viability of the role and you've got your annual cycle and you've got to get into the game whereas legal hasn't necessarily done that in the past, so that's something new to us. It’s new to be at the table, advocating for funding so that we can build that change in the legal department.”
On the partner management side, Ms Golovsky said AMP’s legal team is now shaking up the arrangements with their panel firms.
“Historically I think these panel arrangements have been driven by rates. What I'm trying to do now is get rates and alternative fee arrangements on the table. I know at Cisco and at Microsoft, they're well on the journey of managing their panel firms in this area and I think in the Australian market we're a lot less progressed but it’s definitely a journey and a conversation that we're going on,” she said.
“For the first time this year we're having conversations with our firms about rigorous billing guidelines and changing them from just this schedule at the back of a panel agreement that nobody ever looked at or knew about to something that we are enforcing and hopefully will enforce very rigorously through the implementation of a new billing system.
“Another thing that I'm focusing on, and I think this is something the Australian market is very well progressed at, is working with our panel firms to drive innovation in a way that they deliver legal services to us - so partnering with our panel firms on innovation projects.
“For example, [when we introduced an] automated NDA [app], we partnered with one of our panel firms to build out that app so we could leverage that and roll that out to the enterprise.”
On the technology front, Ms Golovsky noted her new role has seen AMP implement DocuSign to manage matters more efficiently.
“That was an enterprise-wide roll-out solution, driven by the legal department and championed by the legal department as an enterprise solution which I think was a great success for us at AMP,” she said.
“… Another thing we're about to launch is a chatbot on all of those questions that all of our lawyers get asked all the time around where expertise and capabilities fit within the legal department. Who does what? Who's responsible for which group company? Who understands this policy for that process?
“E-billing is [also] something we're looking at. We've developed our billing guidelines, we've had our consultations with our panel firms and now it’s a matter of getting that system in.”
To summarise the value of a legal operations role, Ms Golovsky pointed to the collaboration piece, saying that having someone dedicated to improving the function of a department allows everyone’s day-to-day problems to be addressed.
“The way I look at legal ops at AMP is really the intersection between our people, the processes and what they do every day, and the technology and tools that they're using,” she explained.
“In order to properly understand this intersection and to drive that collaboration and synergy, I started out my role in February by commencing a whole function process review, so asking everyone in the function - the lawyers and the non-lawyers - to look at the low value, low complexity processes that they do every day and see where we should stop doing things [or] start doing them differently and then asking ourselves how we can use technology to improve those processes, reduce inefficiencies and free people up so that they can actually focus on the strategic priorities of the organisation and best utilise their skillset in terms of what they're there to do every day.
“This has been a really interesting exercise because what it's done is shown me that across the legal governance function, lawyers with different capabilities fill in different roles and responsibilities across the organisation. There are real synergies in terms of where we can solve the common pain point and the common inefficiencies.
“What I'm doing is taking a process-driven problem-based approach to how we're going to solve our problems and identify the processes which will have the greatest impact for change across our function.”