The SaaS lawyer has to play many roles. Typeform's Director Corporate Counsel, Daniel Urbán, talks about legal being an end user champion - empowering customers and the wider business to success.
I joined Typeform as the first lawyer in 2018.
Two years later, the business has added around 100 in headcount; my legal team has added one. Against this backdrop, self-serving and scaling go hand-in-hand; my focus has been to make sure our legal processes are robust enough to empower my colleagues and support commercial growth, without legal being the people who say ‘no’.
But as Typeform grows, the complexity we need to manage grows too, and without the right priorities, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. To make sure legal truly enables the business to scale, it’s helpful to focus your attention on end users. The end users of a legal process might be your customers, or it might be your colleagues - either way, start with their needs and work backwards.
Here are three areas where an end-user focus can help a SaaS legal team to support their business as it scales.
It’s incumbent on us as a company, and on me as its legal adviser, to make sure customers are equipped with the best knowledge in a format that’s easy to understand
1. Data privacy 🔒
The nature of Typeform’s business means that data privacy will always be one of our main priorities. We invest heavily in partnering with the right tools so that we can constantly and consistently update the security measures we implement.
The first part of data privacy is external: taking protective measures, obtaining the right certifications, and performing regular penetration tests to evaluate our readiness. The second part is internal: while we’re focused on making sure nobody ever breaches our database, we also need to put the right measures in place to minimize consequences and damage if they do.
But the third part is about empowering our end users to minimize the risk that data is lost or mishandled because of how they use the product. Typeform is a powerful tool that gathers huge quantities of data every day, so we need a comprehensive resource - our Help Center - where users can find information on what we offer, and the best ways to approach certain tasks. It’s incumbent on us as a company, and on me as its legal adviser, to make sure customers are equipped with the best knowledge in a format that’s easy to understand.
That’s why, while the customer success team owns the Help Center, every article receives input and advice from legal, to make sure end users are equipped with the latest insights. What’s more, for those customers who need a level of support beyond the Help Center, I’ll take the time personally to draft answers for our troubleshooting Q&A, so our users can self-serve on common legal queries too. This builds an element of trust between the business and its end users, as well as saving the legal function time by enabling self-serve on individual responses to common questions.
2. Empowering end users 🤗
Employees need access to this information as much as customers - not least because so many teams across the company use Typeform to do their jobs. So what’s an end-user-focused way to make that happen? We provide regular training sessions to new starters and current employees, and we follow these up with quizzes and surveys in Typeform to make sure they’ve been paying attention!
This starts from their first week at the company - we have general conversations about privacy as part of the onboarding process. In these conversations we talk about what privacy actually means for a business like Typeform, the areas of focus when processing data, and more. It’s core to our company values not just to meet our legal and compliance obligations when it comes to data, but also to handle data ethically - we don’t exceed the permissions that customers give us, and we strive to be clear about everything we do with data once we have it.
This is easier said than done, particularly with some of the complex legal principles surrounding privacy. They can be difficult to explain, and our ultimate goal is to structure and phrase all conversations about privacy so that all end users - customers and colleagues - are on the same page.
That’s why we publish two versions of our key legal documents - the legal version, with the jargon to match, and the user-friendly one, written in plain English. We do the same for our internal training documents, striving for simplification to make sure that everyone understands our message. Sharing content like this is about offering practical information rather than providing a legal definition - if it’s in a language everyone understands, the chances of end users actually retaining the information is much higher.
Unsurprisingly, we use Typeform at Typeform. It’s wise to look at existing tools in your business, and find ways to make the most of them
3. Automation ⚡
In order to be able to dedicate legal’s time and focus to end users, it was critical that we automated as much as possible, as early as possible. Automation is the biggest time-saver, so in a business that’s scaling, the earlier you can implement these processes, the better.
If you don’t automate low-value tasks, you won’t have enough time to process the requests you’re receiving, and the backlog compounds over time - particularly with volume tasks like reviewing contracts. You could easily end up spending days approving and reviewing contracts, with no time to address long-term OKRs and set plans in place for upcoming projects.
Unsurprisingly, we use Typeform at Typeform to manage a range of tasks. It’s always wise to look at existing tools in your business, and find ways to make the most of them, before looking to expand your roster of outside vendors. For example, we integrated Typeform with our contracts platform, so we can fill in forms to quickly generate and autopopulate simple contracts. Being a SaaS company, we also use Jira to process tickets and requests, and interact with other departments on contract matters - for example, working through security checklists with our security team. Automation can help create an agile legal team that keeps up with the business as it scales.
The secret sauce? Empathy 🙏
Working in-house, at its core, is a matter of providing answers and information to end users. But as a lawyer, with all the preconceptions that accompany your role, if you don’t go the extra mile to take a more human approach, then colleagues will fall back on typical stereotypes and assume you’re the bad guys - the department that says no. They’ll approach you on issues reluctantly, or worse, not at all.
When you’re dealing with any end users, they expect a level of seriousness and rigidity. A good sense of humour is key in changing this perception! Focus on your interactions with the end users on a personal level, before you focus on the professional. To be a successful, approachable customer-facing legal team, powering your SaaS business to greater heights, you need to behave with empathy. It’s your job to start with the needs of end users, eliminate the bias against legal and focus on building bridges instead.
This is a chapter from our eBook 'Legal for SaaS: how to scale legal work without scaling legal headcount'. Download for free.