Rachel Jacobs is Group General Counsel for Springer Nature, a leading academic and educational publisher serving researchers, students, teachers and professionals around the world. Rachel is passionate about education and research, having studied Environmental Sciences at undergraduate and worked as a teacher in Nepal before becoming a corporate lawyer and moving in-house in the publishing world.
Legal teams have historically not been the first out of the gate when it comes to tech – we’ve done things broadly the same way for hundreds of years and I think there’s a tendency to worry because we’re not experts in technology and we don’t want to make costly mistakes. I felt the same way in the past. I knew there were opportunities to improve efficiency because I had a small team serving a large and contract-heavy organisation, but I didn’t know where to start with tech.
It turns out that it really is a simple as taking the first step and moving from there. We started working with SYKE three years ago and rather than trying to come up with a fully-fledged legal operations strategy from day one, we started small and scaled up. It’s important, in my mind, to not bite off more than you can chew when it comes to a project like this.
We chose a handful of contract templates which were easy to automate and heavily used throughout the business, so we knew they would have a big impact. That way we could prove the value of the systems with powerful metrics and justify the time and expense involved in rolling out to more complex contracts and processes across the business.
Today we’ve automated over 170 different contract templates, generating thousands of individual contracts a year, and 95% of contracts generated are now completely self-service. We have a robust legal operations strategy which is quite mature in our business and we’ve taken business users along the journey with us so that we have buy-in across the board.
For the business the benefits are really obvious now. Users have access to the system 24/7 and the turnaround time is so much quicker. NDA drafting now takes approximately 10 minutes and involves no input from legal. We estimated in year one (when we were really only just getting off the ground) that we saved 24,380 minutes. That’s 50 days of saved human time which can now be spent on more valuable tasks – and that number is only going to continue to grow.
These are the key takeaways for me:
- Start small and scale up – by introducing change over time we were able to win over hearts and minds by bringing people on the journey with us, and we could make sure that the training and upskilling was there from day one of the new systems
- Get the contract templates right – you need to work in collaboration with the business to understand the commercial options they need and include them in the templates so they’re fit for purpose
- Work with experts – I’m a lawyer but I’m not a techy, so I knew that we needed to work with an implementation partner who could not only understand the tech side of it, but the legal side too. This helped massively in ensuring that this project was a success and it has turned into a very successful long-term strategic relationship.