How legal can enable other teams in the business

Kaoru Fujita, 6 January 2022

How can in-house legal enable colleagues in talent, finance and sales? We decided to ask leaders at HelloFresh, Finiata and Omnipresent, about the relationship with their respective legal teams.

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Scaleup leaders in sales, finance and talent usually work closely with legal every day - so how can legal teams enable their key internal clients to work more effectively? Find out in our interviews with Kaoru Fujita, director of sales at Omnipresent; Christoph Nicola, CFO at Finiata; and Yasar Ahmad, global VP of talent at HelloFresh. Use the navigation to get started.  

How legal can enable sales | How legal can collaborate with finance | How legal can support talent

How legal can enable sales 😎

Enabling sales to hit their revenue numbers is one of the most impactful things legal can do for the business. So what does sales want from legal? We asked Kaoru Fujita, director of sales at Omnipresent.

What was your first impression of legal?

My initial impression was that lawyers were laser-focused on protecting the business.

And how has that impression changed?

I love working with our GC, Lucy Ashenhurst, and the rest of the legal team at Omnipresent. We work closely on everything from tactical projects to strategic tasks. When sales does have questions, legal doesn’t just answer the questions directly, but also:

  • Gives my team context on how to think about these questions

  • Helps us understand how to push back in negotiations, for example

  • Helps us answer questions in a way that enables the client

Conceptually, lawyers protect the business, but during my time at Omnipresent, I’ve realised there’s also a huge focus on building the business together. It’s a different mentality.

When does the sales team need legal?

There are three main tasks on which I collaborate with legal, outside of strategic, big-picture projects. The first is knowledge-sharing. The legal team builds tools and systems that allow us to self-serve, so our salespeople can answer questions without having to go to legal every time.legal-collaboration-business

The second is training. We undergo plenty of training sessions with the legal team that tactically reinforce what sales should know about legal and are comfortable speaking about without a lawyer’s direct input. Our company is growing quickly so this is especially helpful.

The third is availability for off-the-cuff requests. We have an internal process where the legal team is able to help us if we have specific questions that we can’t self-serve on, or that we haven’t learned about through training.

“I need to trust legal when they make a judgement call, and understand that their decision is the best one based on the information we have at the time”

How often do you work with the legal team?

It feels like I talk to Lucy and her team at least once an hour! Honestly, we work with the whole team regularly because of the nature of our compliance-heavy business.

When would sales need legal?

Omnipresent is a legal-heavy tech business; what we do is built largely on legal infrastructure. Sales need to understand how this Employer of Record model works in the context of global hiring, which is difficult without legal guidance.

And as an extension, our clients come to us for compliance - they want to be compliant when they’re hiring globally, and if salespeople are not able to talk about that eloquently or competently, our level of service is compromised.

Being able to help our clients become legally compliant is important, and one of the ways we can do that is by understanding the legal underpinnings of what we do.

What do you look for from your legal team?

We work really quickly, but the biggest thing for us is that we trust each other. Legal needs to trust that sales isn’t going to sell something that goes against the concepts in the training they have provided.

And on the other hand, I need to trust legal when they make a judgement call, and understand that their decision is the best one based on the information we have at the time - not only for our business but also for our clients. Our whole relationship is built off trusting one another, and assuming positive intent.

We look for colleagues who showcase our values (ambitious, humble, authentic and curious) - so asking “why” before “how,” or pragmatic problem-solving, is also a must.

And turning the question around, what can sales do to make legal’s job easier?

One of the really challenging aspects of being a lawyer is that they probably get asked the same questions again and again. Salespeople can make legal’s job easier by really taking a step back and asking themselves: what is the core question I want to ask? And does an answer to this question already exist somewhere? Breaking a question down to its core can save legal - and sales - time.

Kaoru Fujita is the director of sales at Omnipresent. Keep reading to hear from Finiata's CFO, Christoph Nicola, on his relationship with legal.

How legal can collaborate with finance 💸

What does the collaboration between legal and finance look like? When do finance teams rely on legal? Christoph Nicola, CFO at Finiata, shares his insights.

How do you find the experience of working with lawyers?

I’ve worked in large corporations with large in-house legal teams. Those lawyers were really knowledgeable but my experience with them was mixed - it was easy to get detailed legal opinions on particular topics, but what I was missing was the entrepreneurial stance, with a lawyer helping you to make decisions.

In startups, by way of comparison, the general counsel was a seasoned in-house lawyer who had perspective on everything and brought an entrepreneurial stance to help you make decisions. Law is never black and white, and that perspective is invaluable in a lawyer.

"I want to be able to go to my lawyer with anything, and know that they will help me to manage it. I also want them to advise on developing solutions. I need not just the legal perspective, but the company perspective too"

When do you need to collaborate with legal?

Firstly, with compliance - advising and having the right setup in terms of regulatory compliance, data protection and labour law. These are the basics to make sure your company survives. Secondly, in negotiating contracts with external parties.

And thirdly, with product development. If you’re developing a new product, then you need a lawyer to help you build new things in the right way. Then there’s also corporate law for investment rounds and so on.

What do you look for in a good in-house counsel?

The perfect lawyer is someone who is well versed in corporate law but also able to move into other fields. I want to be able to go to my lawyer with anything, and know that they will help me to manage it. I also want them to advise on developing solutions. I need not just the legal perspective, but the company perspective too.

Christoph Nicola is the CFO at Finiata. Keep reading to hear from HelloFresh's global VP of talent, Yasar Ahmad, on what he expects from his legal team.

How legal can support talent 🙏

People and talent at high-growth businesses often lean on legal during talent acquisitions. How can legal teams make talent's jobs a little easier? Yasar Ahmad, global VP of talent at HelloFresh, shares his thoughts.

How often does the talent team need legal?

We have a huge talent team at HelloFresh, constantly trying to get in touch with our legal team!

"Trying to be more human and addressing blind spots is important for both legal, in order to enable the business - but also for the business, in order to enable legal"

In what kind of situation does talent collaborate with legal?legal-collaboration-business

There are plenty of queries that legal has to handle - but the most valuable collaborations between talent and legal are over talent acquisitions.

There are many cases where candidates are coming from high-value companies. They get their lawyers to look at the employment offer letters before signing anything with us, so we have to ensure our contracts are watertight.

Those are the most stressful situations - there’s always a clause that could cause a loss in momentum, so having a strong in-house legal team is essential in these scenarios.

What do you look for from your legal team?

I think reassurance and a level of proactivity is key - how can legal make talent’s job easier? What is a stressful task for the business, that isn’t a stressful task for legal? Trying to be more human and addressing blind spots is important for both legal, in order to enable the business - but also for the business, in order to enable legal.

I also think having that business-oriented outlook is essential. We’re looking for advice that helps us make an informed decision that helps the business. The most successful legal teams I’ve collaborated with are the ones that don’t just see themselves as lawyers, but as part of the larger vision of the business.

Yasar Ahmad is the global VP of talent at HelloFresh. Want to hear more? Join our community of 500 lawyers and legal operations experts to get the latest insights, attend exclusive events, and network with some of the brightest minds in legal.

Topics: Legal operations

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