In-house legal playbook skeleton

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It’s never too early to start writing processes down, especially if you want to build a world-class function.

This playbook will get you started - from making legal resources accessible, to using Slack properly, to managing incoming requests. 

Feel free to copy this and build on it with new sections and resources as your legal team grows.

Platforms and systems

You’ve just joined the business as one of its first lawyers - what platforms and systems do you need to get up to speed with?

Firstly, determine the key platforms used to run the business. For example:

Collaborative tools are great for interacting with the business, but aren’t set up to support certain legal concepts - see ‘Legal privilege in instant communication platforms’ further down the page.

How do I best enable the legal team?

It’s important to figure out which teams in the business are most prominent - is your business highly sales-focused? Is it a B2C company? Is there a strong emphasis on the customer? You should have answers to all these questions from the interview and preboarding process, so you know what to expect.

By understanding what matters most to the business, you can figure out the best way to enable them.

When should I address legal intake?

The simple answer: before you actually need to!

Look at your growth trajectory and map out where you see the legal team in three months, six months, and a year from now. The following steps can help you figure this out.

1. Map out legal work

Consider the following questions:

  • What are the main types of tasks legal is handling?
  • Is the legal team involved in the right work?
  • What’s the volume of that work like?
  • Do you see it increasing / decreasing?
  • Can you get legal involved in areas where they need to be involved, but haven’t historically been included?

Insert yourself wherever legal can be most useful, but without disrupting the way the business operates.

2. Make decisions

Look at your answers to the previous questions and figure out whether the work legal is involved with is the work legal should be involved with as you scale the business. 

Where do you see legal dedicating their time in the future? Where do you need to push work to other teams, or to outside providers? This is an important step in making sure legal is working proactively, rather than reactively.

3. Prevent knowledge silos

If you’re on holiday, legal information should still be accessible - especially as legal scales. Lawyers deserve holidays too. Once the business has a legal team, they’ll quickly get used to, and rely on, having it around. How do you make sure legal can serve the business even when the team isn’t there?

The best way to prevent knowledge silos is by documenting as much as you can - make sure you cover all your bases, from contracts to privacy.

As the team grows, link out from the main document to additional FAQs, and iterate regularly - this will help keep your knowledge base clean and easy to navigate.

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Legal privilege in instant communication platforms

Privilege is something to consider when collaborating with others on comms platforms like Slack or Teams. If someone sends you an email asking for legal advice, your response is protected from disclosure.

It’s really difficult to maintain that same privilege in-house, when sharing information with the business - you need to be a different type of lawyer. To do this, you can consider:

  • Whether collaborative platforms are the right places for sensitive discussions - it might be best to move certain conversations into email
  • The risks with different formats within a collaborative platform - for example, in Slack you can send a direct message to your colleague, create a private channel, create a small group, or drop a message in a public channel, for the whole business to see. Where should your conversations take place, and how do you mitigate the risk of waiving that privilege?
  • A 1:1 approach towards comms - the rules for in-house lawyers around privilege are tricky. These are archaic concepts that don’t have
  • Explicitly highlighting whether a piece of info is privileged and confidential - of course, that doesn’t automatically make that info confidential, but having ‘privileged and confidential’ in all caps at the top might make a fellow lawyer reconsider whether that content needs to be shared in the future

If you’re new to collaborative platforms like Slack, here are some sample guidelines on how to make Slack work for your team.

Slack guidelines

Rule zero: do you need to use Slack? If possible, always talk to people first, whether that’s face to face or on a video call, so everyone is on the same page.

1. Transparency is key.

There are hardly any reasons for a channel to be private. Most work messages should be in public channels, rather than direct messages.

2. Message the right channels.

Avoid overburdening general channels that are usually meant for company-wide announcements. If you want to create a new channel, ask yourself three things:

  1. Is there no existing channel where the discussion you’re starting could fit?
  2. Is it worth bumping an existing channel out of the visible sidebar for this new one?
  3. Are you prepared to own the channel and monitor / drive its usage?

If the answer to each is yes, then go ahead.

3. Pinning and starring messages will make them easier to find.

If Slack is the business’ primary internal comms platform, everything important should live here in some way, and be easy to find.

4. Be sensitive to the importance, audience and cadence of any given channel.

Don’t overload people with unnecessary notifications, especially if you have specific channels like #security, #customer-love and #inbound-leads, for example.

5. Treat Slack messages with the same reverence as email.

If you wouldn’t be happy with your customers reading it, should you really be saying it?

6. Use a tone that’s appropriate for a high-growth company.

Be clear and concise, without room for misinterpretation. Avoid sarcasm and don’t be aggressive, or passive-aggressive.

7. Be mindful of others.

Slack may help your company bridge the geographic distances between teams. Be mindful of things like first language, time zone, and cultural context of the colleagues you talk to.

8. Remember: you’re representing the business.

From time to time the company may use Slack channels with external partners and vendors. You’re a representative for the company in these channels, so always be respectful and keep business interests front and centre.

9. Remember: Slack is a productivity tool.

It should speed things up and reduce your email burden. If it doesn’t, and you’re overwhelmed, you might be doing it wrong: just ask for advice and support -- your team will be happy to help.

10. Remember to switch off.

This one’s important - just because you can send and receive messages all day and night, it doesn’t mean that you should. Use the snooze and mute functions to make sure you get time to yourself.

How does Klarna’s legal team use Slack to work more efficiently? Klarna’s Head of Legal, Johanna Carlsson, shares her tips and tricks.

Managing incoming requests

As sole counsel at a high-growth business, it won’t be long before you’re pulled in every direction. Being able to manage these requests is important.

Triaging work will help legal establish where work is coming from; who is responsible for completing it; and whether it’s worth outsourcing or keeping internal.

Where do I start?

Look closely at the common pain points - when trying to get clarity on a legal request, are there any questions you ask your colleagues more regularly? Which tasks can be classified as low-value admin work? Which tasks aren’t even legal-related? Does legal receive repetitive asks from the wider business?

By answering these questions, you can set up rules that ensure colleagues send legal requests with all the right information.

What next?

Look at your research - what kind of questions does legal receive, and how should the team address them? If it’s a complex topic, then writing a FAQ page would be too complicated - but for simple yes/no answers, or straightforward decisions, you can find ways to simplify the process.

For example — a common question with your sales contracts might be ‘can you increase the liability cap?’

If your business has a standardized position on this, where the answer is ‘yes’, the sales team will need a lawyer to negotiate that each time. This is something you could automate in your collaboration tool, so that liability cap can be figured out thanks to some simple formulae - reducing legal involvement and enabling sales at the same time.

Check out our guides for a deep dive on standardized contracts and conditional logic.

Staying one step ahead of incoming requests is also useful.

For example — you know that high-growth businesses usually have an increased volume of contracts they need to agree and manage. And this means you’ll likely be inundated with contract requests, from clarification on terms to help with negotiation.

Aside from creating contract templates with standardized terms, you can also define your risk appetite: ‘for any contract value less than $10k, legal will not invest time in negotiations - we’re happy for the team to sign at that level’.

You can communicate this through your comms platform, and save it in a shared knowledge base or FAQ page, so everyone is aligned.

Having a solution to legal intake, whether it’s a ‘legal front door’, a shared inbox, or a Slack channel, can also help here. This will ensure that requests aren’t scattered across multiple systems, but in a single workspace that’s easy to access and organize.

Managing legal’s workload

This is a problem you’ll likely face once you’ve scaled the legal function - it’s never too early to start planning for scale 🔮

Lawyers need to keep track of the team’s workload, and make sure it’s being allocated at the right level as the team grows - but there’s a tendency for colleagues in a business to have a ‘favourite lawyer’ - the lawyer that receives all legal requests from certain colleagues.

To resolve this, create a shared legal workspace for requests - like an inbox the whole legal team can access. This will help legal leaders manage workloads, ensure fair distribution of work, and maximise the team’s efficiency.

When it comes to managing others, this can also help with personal development - for example, if you know a junior lawyer in your team has a strong interest in data protection, you can keep an eye out for data protection-related questions that drop into your shared inbox, and ensure they go to that specific person.

Making legal content accessible to the business

Many if not most of your colleagues will need to access legal content at some point in their role, whether that’s your infosec policy, contract playbook, signature policy or any of the other resources you create to enable the business.

What counts as ‘legal content’?

Legal content is a broad term that covers any documentation that may require a lawyer. This could be anything from privacy notices to non-disclosure agreements.

Where do I start?

Find answers to the following questions:

  • What does the business actually have that counts as ‘legal content’?
  • Where does it currently live?

And try to get some quick wins through low-tech solutions.

For example — if you notice that low-value contracts, like NDAs, are taking too long to generate and customise, you could set up a FAQ page in your business’ knowledge-sharing platform, and attach a template NDA. By enabling self-serve you can free yourself of that contract admin work.

Feel free to copy this and build on it with new sections and resources as your legal team grows.

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