From reactive to proactive: how legal teams can use data to unlock business value

Freeing trapped data can transform the legal department into a value-generating force driving business forward

The rise in collaboration platforms and other cloud-based business applications has helped companies improve efficiency. But the shift away from single-suite enterprise solutions has also created challenges for businesses, and for corporate legal departments in particular, as data becomes trapped in silos across multiple systems.

One major issue with siloed data is that it is difficult for legal teams to access and control this information for regulatory and compliance purposes, making it harder to manage risk effectively. The more the data is siloed, the harder it is to find and the bigger impact it has on productivity, says Kelly Griswold, chief operating officer
of Onna.

“Without the right tools, it is very time consuming and inefficient for legal departments to find what they are looking for in legal discovery,” she says. “Using a system like Onna helps materially cut down on the time and cost of performing a collection, so this optimises productivity but also gives access to information that would have otherwise just been very difficult to find in the first place.”

Part of the reason why legal departments need specialist technology to help them capture and retrieve this data is because it comes in an unstructured format, which makes it difficult to process and understand.

“Making data consumable, through technology that is easily adopted with no-code deployment, is critical to unlocking value for the legal department,” says Griswold.

Such technology can also enable corporate legal departments to move from being reactive to taking a much more proactive approach to managing and using data. Take ediscovery. Traditionally, a legal department would perform a one-off collection from a particular data source by processing this information, finding what they are looking for and then promptly discarding it, wasting a valuable source of processed and indexed data.

Making data consumable, through technology that is easily adopted with no-code deployment, is critical to unlocking value for the legal department

“Instead, if you’re maintaining an archive of that system, not only will the data be able to be reused and repurposed for a variety of different use-cases, but you’re also able to respond to these events more quickly and proactively,” says Griswold. “The return on investment versus just looking at it as a one-off collections project will actually pay back in and of itself very quickly, but then the return becomes exponential the more you use the data asset you’ve created.”

While ediscovery is one example, legal departments can also look at creating centralised and searchable indexes across many different data sources, such as contracts, mergers and acquisitions or compliance, which can then be used to generate valuable strategic insights for the wider business.

“The legal department holds the keys to the enterprise in many different ways; they’re the custodians of contracts which govern all business relationships across the enterprise,” says Griswold. “They have access to so much information and so being able to organise this information in a way that can be served for greater business utility can elevate legal from a reactive, risk-management focus to a proactive, value-generating function for the business. That is a massive opportunity and data management is at the heart of it.”

That evolving relationship where in-house legal departments are no longer seen only as a cost centre, but instead as a valued and trusted business partner can also change the way general counsel (GC) and chief legal officers are viewed by the rest of the C-suite, potentially paving the way for more GCs to start running businesses.

“If you look at some of the reasons why it would make sense for a chief financial officer to turn chief executive, those same reasons exist if we look at the corporate legal function and the role of the GC,” says Griswold. “We expect to see more GCs and people with legal backgrounds becoming CEOs and the turning point for that is looking at reactive opportunities in the context of a proactive strategy that benefits cross-functional business stakeholders.”

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