Legal ops: How to achieve effective cross-functional alignment

How can legal ops collaborate better with other teams?

Legal Ops Alignment Blog


Collaboration is the central force behind successful digital transformations. Each department within a business is vital to its success and relies on the others to create a symbiotic relationship that maximizes profit generation. As teams begin to work together more and re-work legacy designations, technology, and processes, cross-functional alignment becomes even more important. The formation of legal ops teams across businesses is proof of this strategic priority.  More than just compliance and risk management, legal’s role in a business is evolving, and its relationships need to evolve alongside it. 

Strategic position of legal department

In addition to being seen as a cost-center, legal frequently operates within a silo except to dictate terms within internal and external contracts. Spring CM's 2018 study on contract management revealed that for 87% of employees and executives surveyed, it can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for legal to review a contract. This results in drawn-out sales cycles and bottlenecks across departments.

Yet, with more efficient communication, processes, and technology, the legal department can leverage its strategic positioning within a business and create the necessary fluidity between departments. 

The legal department can lead the charge to create best practices for cross-functional communications, advocate for the ease of the exchange of information, and ensure that documents are available when needed. This creates an environment of productivity for each department, and in turn, for the company at large.  

A combination of streamlining cross-functional processes and healthy workplace relationships help businesses thrive both internally and externally. 

How to improve communication between legal and other departments

The main way to enhance collaboration between legal and other departments is to improve (or establish) regular communication. In establishing robust communication with disparate departments, legal can spearhead the change to move away from legacy systems and towards centralized repositories. This speeds up internal processes while also decreasing contracting risks. 

Some ways that legal can improve communication with other departments:

Invest in tech tools

Leveraging tech tools in the legal department is good for encouraging collaboration across departments. While legal isn’t used to purchasing tech tools and their tech stack is often lacking, an investment in and dedication to tools that manage vendor relationships, spend on outside counsel, and contracting for other departments can go a long way. 

Knowledge sharing

Because they are seen as withholding information from other departments, it is important that legal find ways to share information with other departments so as not to operate within a silo. Because legal is often the in-house expert on compliance (unless there is a specific compliance department), their knowledge can prove beneficial as it will give the rest of the company guidelines for operating with less risk.

Strategic planning

Even though the legal department is seen as a strategic business unit, it is important that legal doesn’t form strategy in a silo. Rather, legal should work with other departments to develop a strategy that aligns with and supports individual departments’ and the overall company’s goals.

Standardizing workflows 

Every department in a business depends on legal in some way for drafting, reviewing, or redlining contracts. However, because all teams depends on this single team, it is easy for asks to slip between the cracks. By standardizing workflows and agreeing on a process that works for each department involved, legal can enhance cross-functional alignment across the business.

Whether working with sales, finance, human resources, or development/IT, legal ops need to embrace a cross-functional mindset and practice in order to optimize on their strategy. Particularly, a business implementing new digital tools and undergoing a digital transformation will not get very far without strong internal relationships. This will give organizations a successful edge within their respective industries.

Learn more about how legal can work with finance, sales, HR, and development/IT teams in our eBook!

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