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Legal hygiene at scale: Francesca Porter, Onfido

Francesca Porter, 16 June 2020

If you’re growing quickly, you need to set new joiners up for success. This includes awareness of legal procedures, policies and compliance. How can you maintain legal hygiene as growth accelerates?

This is a chapter from our 'Legal for scaleups' eBook, featuring legal leaders from some of the world's fastest growing companies. Download for free now. 

Legal hygiene has different meanings in different businesses, but for me it revolves around the principles of legal procedures, policies and compliance integrated into the company.

When I joined Onfido in 2017, there were over 100 employees and we were hiring around five people each month. This at the time felt like a lot to me, but the beginning of 2020 saw that number skyrocket; Onfido onboarded 40 people in January alone, with the team growing to over 350. With this rapid growth, how do you preserve the rate of learning and dissemination of information to equip new joiners for success?

At Onfido we have a week of onboarding sessions where new joiners learn about the company and the product. Legal didn’t originally have a session during this week, but now we have two dedicated slots in which we run introduction sessions covering both legal processes and privacy for newcomers. It’s important to provide that information to new joiners, but legal hygiene doesn’t end there - it needs to be maintained as the company scales.

Why do you need good legal hygiene? 🤔

It’s important for us to bring new joiners up to speed quickly, so they understand our company policies, where they can find legal resources, and how we govern deals and contracts. Often, GCs can find that new hires are unsure of the legal process; they understandably don’t know who to get approvals and sign-offs from. This can be challenging when they have deals pending, want to onboard a new vendor, or need approval on marketing materials, for example. By integrating principles with new joiners every month, we can mitigate that and construct an effective self-service model to deal with a large volume of the queries we see.

“Most teams offer training once and never return to it again. At Onfido, we see it much more as a continuous flow of information”

Best practices 👍

Legal hygiene is an ongoing task that continues beyond onboarding - but what else can the legal team do? Here are my key learnings:

Follow up on initial training

Most teams offer training once and never return to it again. At Onfido, we see it much more as a continuous flow of information. This is particularly important if you work in a SaaS business applying an agile methodology, where the product may change and evolve at pace. We host a sales enablement training session every Wednesday. Not everything that the sales team learns in their initial onboarding will remain true, especially at a business where the product is developing at such a rapid pace.

Above all else, the growth team needs to know what they are selling! Our weekly sessions offer an opportunity for legal, product and sales to come together and discuss updates and features, as well as what these changes mean for both clients and sales opportunities, from a contractual perspective.

Create a resource centre

A company can design a content-rich onboarding week, but the reality is that no matter how well structured, knowledge retention will never be 100% - newcomers have to grapple with a large amount of information, and are unlikely to remember everything. We have a resource centre where employees can self-serve legal information. If they need to refresh their memory on legal policies or what is expected of them with regards to privacy and data compliance, the information is stored in a single source of truth.

There are plenty of resources available that can help you achieve this; at Onfido, we use a contract management platform for both automated contract generation and legal ticketing. This integrates with our information hub on Google Drive, and is the best place for us to store and manage playbooks, toolkits, FAQs and checklists. This also helps with version control - there’s only one of each resource, and it’s updated as and when it’s necessary. For project planning we use Asana, and some people in the business use Confluence.

Our major focus is on removing simple, repetitive tasks and structuring ourselves in a scalable way so that we can dedicate legal time to complex, high impact matters. We have achieved this by viewing each task as an opportunity to create a scalable resource. Creating a resource centre and showcasing it in an accessible location seems like a simple task, but there are clear benefits of doing so.

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Perfect your legal playbook

As a commercial lawyer joining any company, it’s essential to learn about the company’s standard contracting positions. When I first joined Onfido I found myself answering the same questions in client negotiations, making many of the same arguments, or repeating certain legal positions when agreeing contracts. To be more efficient, I created a legal playbook in which I included contract negotiation comments, positions and fallbacks. This legal playbook continues to expand today, with contributions from the wider team, housing one-pagers, FAQs, company negotiation positions and other resources.

Explore all your avenues

As the business continues to grow, you have to arrange and execute the same training with all the newcomers - this can take up several hours of your time. You should be open to considering alternative methods, such as creating training videos to distribute across the company. This could work for standard procedures that are less likely to change, but can be challenging to maintain if the policies and processes are constantly changing.

Within legal, it can get difficult keeping up with new material, laws and regulations in both yours and your clients industries - especially if you’re in a sector like legal tech or AI. Balancing that intake of new information with your day-to-day workload can be tricky, so it’s important to look at different ways to accommodate this. We created weekly training sessions called “legal eagles” for the legal team where a different lawyer each week would summarize and share their learnings from a new piece of legislation. It’s a really simple yet effective solution to the new information that we receive on a weekly basis.

Follow leadership guidance

When it comes to maintaining legal hygiene as the business scales, tone at the top and guidance from the leadership team is essential. If you were to make a decision on behalf of the legal team to stop negotiating terms with certain clients, you would have the sales team disputing over how legal is slowing down the process of getting contracts over the line. You need that strict strategy in place from the business, at the senior level, to align legal and sales over the same objectives. By having clear objectives in place, the business can work together to achieve them, and it’s easier to steer legal towards certain practises in order to achieve the overall goal.

“One of our goals is ‘10x thinking’ - it challenges you to think in terms of revolutionary change, rather than evolutionary change”

Always look ahead

It’s important to remember that as the company grows, expectations will also increase and there will be more that requires legal attention. Fundraising is a good example - the expectations for fundraising documents and due diligence become more pronounced as the company and its funding rounds get larger. You need to have clear document storage, good record-keeping and easy access to all of the documents that underpin the business and help you make risk-based decisions; from IP policies to licensing agreements to external counsel opinions. It’s important to look around the curve and start making plans ahead of schedule so you aren’t faced with a painful situation further down the line.

Don't underestimate the power of your team 💪

One of our goals at Onfido is “10x thinking” - this involves thinking about how you can improve what you do by a factor of 10. It challenges you to think in terms of revolutionary change rather than evolutionary change. When solving a problem, for example, it’s important to consider: is this solution scalable? If not, can I adjust my approach to solve it in a way that is? And will this solution be effective in a year? How about two years? It can be tempting in a fast-paced start-up to solve things quickly without thinking of the wider context or long term implications.

Encouraging 10x thinking within your team and having an open collaborative environment where team members share information, resources and know-how can greatly increase the team’s impact and leverage. A good way to promote this is to have KPIs each quarter, ensuring that time is being split effectively between daily work and ongoing project work. This can help to keep the whole team focused and accountable.

Above all. it’s important to work together to maintain legal hygiene, and the power of your team will help you with scalable structures, buy-in, legal tech tools, and beyond.

This is a chapter from our 'Legal for scaleups' eBook, featuring legal leaders from some of the world's fastest growing companies. Download for free now. 

Building a resource centre? Get in touch to see how Juro can offer a single source of truth for your contracts.

Topics: Legal operations

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