There's fast growth, there's hypergrowth, and then there's UiPath. How do you scale legal process at one of the world's fastest-growing companies?
Hi 👋 who are you?
Hi! I'm Ioana Badiu. I'm the legal innovation and operations manager, at UiPath.
Tell us about the legal function at UiPath.
As a company, we’re now spread across more than 25 countries around the world - although everyone is working at home now, with the current global situation. Our HQ is in New York, we have four development centers in Bucharest, and Cluj (Romania), as well as in Bellevue (US) and Bangalore (India), a big team in Japan, and many other locations.
Legal has developed to support everyone globally, so we have people in place where legislation imposes regional specificities. We have quite a sizeable legal department assisting everyone everywhere. My role in all of this is making everything come together in an efficient manner - it’s not easy, but after two years, I can certainly say I’m in my comfort zone.
"When I joined, I was somewhere around employee number 500, and by the end of last year we were around 3,000 people in total (and still growing). By any standards, that is a phenomenal growth in such a short period"
How did you get into legal operations?
My first experience with sales operations was at Adobe. When UiPath reached out to me with a legal operations mission, I was interested, because my work in sales operations had lots to do with contracting. I had a good knowledge of the contracting process, and that’s what they needed in the phase the company was in at the time.
It seemed like a great opportunity to start a brand new team within a fast-growing company. So I took a shot and haven’t regretted it - two years later I’m what you’d call in UiPath terms ‘a veteran’! When I joined, I was somewhere around employee number 500, and by the end of last year we were around 3,000 people in total (and still growing). By all standards, that is a phenomenal growth in such a short period.
How have things changed at the company in that time?
Our culture is the same - we’ve worked really hard at preserving the culture of the company as it grew. Management has multiplied since then, our colleagues come from all corners of the globe and we’re a truly multinational company – yet the general feel is the same: we work fast, come up with our own ideas and projects, and if we spot a problem, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and find ways to fix it. From that point of view, it hasn’t changed a bit!
How does your role help to enable the legal and commercial teams?
I act as the primary point of contact for day-to-day issues concerning legal and finance, for example - so we don’t have legal counsel answering the same questions over and over again. To avoid that, we have an internal chatbot to answer FAQs - it’s learning on the go, and still doesn’t have all the answers, so sometimes I have to step in and direct queries to the right team member.
On major issues, we work on a project basis - we assemble a core team, of which I’m usually a member, start collaborating internally, bring the stakeholders together and work quickly. My role involves a lot of training to understand everybody’s pain points.
"It’s a balancing act - we have to walk the line between what sales wants and what legal needs"
At the outset I perhaps naively thought that sales operations and legal operations were pretty similar, but I’ve quickly learned that’s not the case. Legal counsel is more aware of risks that particular processes can raise for the company, and focuses on putting controls in place to mitigate those risks. In sales ops you’re not that focused on risks - you’re mainly focused on supporting sales reps in pursuit of speed, processing work faster, and getting the deal closed. It’s a balancing act. We have to walk the line between what sales wants and what legal needs.
Legal operations is partly about protecting in-house lawyers’ time so they can add the most value - is that the approach you take?
At UiPath, we have the big advantage of being able to use our own platform for legal processes. In terms of Robot Process Engineering (RPE), we look at everything that’s manual, repetitive, and can be automated. One of my main focus areas for the past few years has been to identify those mundane tasks and take them off legal counsel’s hands.
We have been so successful with legal automation that we now have a dedicated legal automation team that serves our customers. It grew from our own experiences, until it became a dedicated offering. Now our former General Counsel heads the team in global services, helping to alleviate our customers’ legal team’s workload by automating those routine tasks for them.
With processes, I used to be the one who jumped at tackling the difficult internal questions - imposing thresholds on deals under which we wouldn’t accept third-party paper, for example. We brought that up to the company’s sales leadership who were happy to take it forward. We’re trying to set boundaries so that legal counsel doesn’t spend so much time on low-value work.
How do you build processes that are robust enough to scale and handle a sales force of 1,000+?
I think I can safely say I'm one of the most vocal promoters of data governance and standardization across the company. I raise those difficult questions. When you work as fast as we do, you’re not thinking about the small details - but that’s where I come in, and I’ll model scenarios we might experience and allow the business to make educated decisions so as to avoid or handling those scenarios in the real world. It’s an exercise in imagination - you need to think about what you might come across and resolve that issue before it arises.
You need to think about a lot of workarounds and make sure people get onboarded properly, have access to the right information, and everything they need to avoid inefficiencies. We had the advantage of using our own platform to do so - legal was the first team to start automating for internal processes with RPE, which made things easier. Our mindset was to automate first - that’s our motto and not a marketing pitch. We look for the individual pieces to automate easily, and that enables us to standardise a whole process.
When you work as fast as we do, you’re not thinking about the small details - that’s where I come in. I’ll model scenarios we might experience and allow the business to make educated decisions so as to avoid handling those scenarios in the real world.
How easy is it to make those processes work cross-border, now you’re in so many countries?
Because we grew so fast and have such a large international footprint, we don’t think of ourselves as a Romanian company, but as a truly global company. We live by that. Hence, we don’t think of processes as starting in our Bucharest office and needing to be scaled - we always start global. When we design and introduce a process, from the outset our goal is to encompass the minimum requirements of everyone globally. Then we look at any geographically specific elements and start with localization.
You’re also editor in chief for the Legal Times. What's that?
The Legal Times is an internal newsletter that we send out quarterly. We include information like regulations people need to know about that will impact our business, changes in processes, team profiles so people know who to reach out to for certain issues, and we communicate major projects that people might not know about, and so on. It’s mostly about raising awareness of what we’re doing and what we’re bringing to other teams through our work. There can be a general feeling that legal only does contracts, so trying to raise awareness of those projects that take place behind the scenes and yet help the company in a major way is really important.
Finally, what advice would you have for a scaleup that’s thinking about bringing in legal operations expertise?
Our core purpose is to work smart - not hard, but smart. We take pride in the fact that we leave enough room for innovation for everybody. It’s not like there's only one team doing innovation in the company and everyone else is going about their business in the usual way. We want people to be at their brightest and most innovative at work. So it’s always a good idea to take a step back and think about why you’re doing what you’re doing, and if it could be done better. We get so bound up in the details that we don’t always do this often enough.
Thanks Ioana! 🙏
Find out more about making legal operations better directly from the experts, in our eBook, 'Legal operations: how to do it and why it matters.'