Implementing a Legal Spend Management Solution Part One: Generating Internal Buy-In

Most General Counsel or Risk Managers have probably considered implementing an ebilling solution for help with managing legal spend. If you have, you’re probably familiar with just how many challenges the implementation of such solutions can present, and how difficult those challenges may be to overcome.

One of the most important obstacles to get in front of is generating internal buy-in. Implementation of any solution is impossible without teamwork, but it can be uniquely challenging for legal spend management or ebilling solutions in the current market, as they often require sign off from many different parties. Successful implementations are well-planned, follow a schedule, and work to minimize burdens on all parties. The best implementations are ones where all parties are clear on the objectives, the plan of action, and the benefits of this kind of solution.

Set Clear Goals and Realistic Expectations

The best foundation for successful implementation is clear and realistic objectives. Think about what you want to accomplish with this solution in place, and articulate them to your ebilling solution’s project manager. Are you looking for savings? Better management of your outside counsel? Reporting on spend? All of the above? Your project manager will help you specify those goals as well as help set realistic expectations for all members of the implementation team. Without a clear set of expectations for who is responsible for what and a rough idea of what your timeline will be, implementation will stall very quickly. A clear set of expectations is the key framework for an implementation, identifying individual responsibilities, providing a timeline for the implementation, and functioning as the first resource to solve problems that arise.

Identify Stakeholders

While setting goals for yourself and your organization also think about who the stakeholders are and other decision makers who will be affected by this implementation. Your project manager should help identify stakeholders and agents on their end, and you should be able to provide similar documentation on your end. Some stakeholders, such as internal counsel or claims managers, are easy to identify.  However, others in your organization may not immediately be associated with the process change.  For example: does your implementation include potential changes to the law firm payment process?  If so, including stakeholders from the Accounts Payable and Finance departments will allow for their input in crafting a comprehensive implementation plan. It’s also a good idea to reach out to these parties early to begin anticipating potential roadblocks and problems. Lastly, some stakeholders may be more integral to signing off on implementation than others, so it can be helpful to develop a hierarchy of who these people are to know how to move the implementation along.

Develop Your Pitch

Once you’ve set clear goals and identified the responsible stakeholders and involved parties, develop a pitch to sell the implementation to your legal team.  Focus your pitch on your objectives and how those goals benefit your organization. Frame the implementation as the solution to specific problems that affect the stakeholders who are listening to you. Speak to those stakeholders’ interests. How do those problems specifically affect them? How does a legal spend management solution solve that problem? If your main goal is savings to the organization, stress how the legal department has an obligation as stewards of company resources, and managing legal spend actively meets that obligation. Don’t get bogged down in the details of implementation. Your goal should be to capture their attention and direct focus on the end result.

Listen to Feedback and Adapt

Successful implementations are the product of teamwork and collaboration, so the most important part of this process is adapting to feedback from your team. You may find that your team reacts positively to your pitch. Or, you may find that your team has a lot of reservations. In either case, it’s important to keep lines of communication with stakeholders open so that you can ensure adaptability. There is no cookie-cutter implementation plan. The best implementation plans are ones that adapt to the different goals and expectations of all parties involved.  Also plan for a long-term review; ask for feedback from your team after the legal spend management plan has been in place for six months to a year.  What do and don’t they like?  Are there portions of the solution that made sense during planning but don’t work in practice?  By allowing your team to provide their input and taking action on those areas with the most resistance, you’ll ensure that the program not only succeeds but flourishes.

Implementation of a legal spend management solution can be a massive undertaking in and of itself, and can easily fall apart if your team isn’t sold on the idea. The better the plan, the better the implementation, the better the outcome!

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