Exceeding Expectations: How One GC Used Contract Management Software to Become More than ‘Just a Lawyer’  

When Colin Flannery, the worldwide General Counsel of Vertiv, joined me on stage at the 2019 Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) Institute in Las Vegas this May, our objective was to share Vertiv’s contract management journey: From having unmanaged paper contracts hidden in file cabinets located across several continents, to launching a robust enterprise-wide contract lifecycle management (CLM) system that served the entirety of their global operations. Colin artfully achieved this primary objective during our session entitled “From Static Documents to Strategic Assets.”

But unknowingly, he did the audience of corporate counsel and legal ops professionals a far greater service: He unveiled a map for general counsel and corporate counsel who want to show true leadership beyond their typical role as legal advisor. By leading Vertiv’s CLM efforts as General Counsel, Colin showed himself and his department to be far more than just a collection of savvy contract drafters and negotiators. Exactly how did he and the Vertiv legal department achieve this?

1. Manifesting the Corporate Mission

Following its divestiture from Emerson Electric in the summer of 2016, the then-new CEO of Vertiv announced an objective to unify the company’s culture: “One Vertiv.” Accordingly, each department leader was charged with manifesting this mission in a demonstrable way.

Colin was faced with a challenge: How could a team of lawyers demonstrate its cultural alignment to this objective? One answer: launching an enterprise CLM initiative with the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform. Before implementing an enterprise-wide contract management platform, Colin told a story of disparate legal teams scattered across the globe and even more disparate contracting processes supporting the Vertiv business.

Driven by the “One Vertiv” mandate, the legal department took the leadership opportunity to re-engineer their contracting process and create a single repository of truth for their worldwide agreements using CLM software.

2. Leading an Enterprise Project that Extends Outside of the Legal Department

The CLOC Institute demonstrated the rising influence of legal operations professionals; accordingly, more legal teams are benefitting from a resource dedicated to deploying technology within the legal department. But what about deploying enterprise software that touches not only your attorneys but extends to a myriad of professionals who are involved in the various contracting processes outside of your legal department?

The Vertiv legal department demonstrated that they were the ultimate collaborators and partners to the business when they reengineered and improved their CLM processes and deployed ICM. In addition to demonstrating collaboration across business units, Colin also mentioned the need to better collaborate, through technology, with his business partners and attorneys who are located outside of North America and non-native English speakers. For Vertiv, identifying software that utilized user interface in the user’s native language was critical to the successful deployment and adoption of the CLM technology.

Using an enterprise CLM launch, the Vertiv legal department was able to stretch outside of its legal department, demonstrate its leadership and lead a technology deployment that supported and benefited the entire enterprise.

3. Adopting a Data-Driven Mindset

Colin kicked off the session with a story about the power of data. He remarked about the ubiquity of data in his Vertiv world–namely that his enterprise is in the business of data, his cohort of leaders at Vertiv use data to make decisions, and his customers are constantly consuming data.

A persistent theme throughout sessions at CLOC, and as demonstrated by Colin’s opening remarks, was the need for general counsel and legal departments to be more data-driven; according to him, the legal department was not keeping up with the business’s reliance on data nor using data for its own consumption and decision-making. Colin described how he is challenging himself and the department to be more data-driven. One go-to source of data to better manage risk and understand the value his department delivers to the enterprise? The analytics and dashboards found in Vertiv’s ICM implementation–which he referred to as “a rich rainforest of data.”

At CLOC, Colin shared a report that included the total number of contracts on the system further broken out by geography and contract template type. Moreover, he’s able to measure adoption of the system, starting from less than one thousand agreements on the system in 2017 to now more than 10,000 agreements managed on ICM.

How Is Your Legal Department Exceeding Expectations?

The general counsel and the attorneys in a legal department are known and valued for their deep knowledge of law and regulations; but for the modern GC and leading legal departments, this deep subject matter expertise is only table stakes. Beyond dispensing legal advice, how is your legal team exceeding expectations across the enterprise?

Like Vertiv, can you transform your contracting process and, in turn, transform the way the enterprise perceives you and the department? Let us help you identify the powerful ways that CLM can help you distinguish your legal department.

Bernadette Bulacan is Chief Evangelist at Icertis. You can follow her on Twitter at @InHouse_Bern.

About the Author

Bernadette Bulacan

Drawing from her experiences as an assistant general counsel, law firm partner and legaltech entrepreneur, Bernadette M. Bulacan is a frequent speaker regarding the digital transformation of the legal profession and specifically the modern legal department. Bernadette is the Legal Evangelist for Icertis, the recognized leader for enterprise contract management. At Icertis, she is charged with sharing contract management best practices and identifying trends and innovations affecting corporate counsel and the delivery of legal services across their organizations. Prior to Icertis, Bernadette was a founding member and Assistant General Counsel of Serengeti Law, which was acquired by Thomson Reuters. She later held various leadership roles at Thomson Reuters, in its legal professionals division, and QuantAI, an intellectual property analytics AI company. Bernadette was a partner at Graham & Dunn, a Seattle law firm, where she was the head of the firm’s Entrepreneur and Emerging Companies/Corporate practice group. Bernadette received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and her law degree and LL.M (Taxation) from the University of Washington.

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