Law department profile: Adapting to shifting business needs at IBI Group

The legal practice at IBI Group focuses on operational innovation to empower business growth

Law department profile: Adapting to shifting business needs at IBI Group
Steven Kresak

IBI GROUP has evolved from a traditional architecture and engineering company into a technology-based firm. The company brought a broader range of legal issues to the table, so the legal team has adapted to shifting business needs and developed more profound technology, privacy and data integrity skills. The team is actively involved in all aspects of IBI’s global business.

Known for its innovative process automation tools, the legal team at IBI is always looking for new ways to speed up processes and support business growth.

“We want to make sure we’re not only providing legal services but business advice in real-time, so we focus on operational innovation to get ahead of the tidal wave coming our way,” says Steven Kresak, general counsel and corporate secretary at the Toronto-based global company. “Part of the reason why people on my team enjoy the work they do is that they are not shoehorned into one area. Everyone on our team is multi-disciplinary, multifunctional and speaks the language of business.”

 Kresak notes that many people have been spending significantly more time on screens during the pandemic, while the attention span for reading emails and other communications has shortened. With this in mind, the team came up with a set of Tik Tok-style communications. Instead of presenting to their internal clients for 30 or 40 minutes on an area of the law to support business growth, the legal team created seven-minute or shorter micro-learning videos.

“We’re offering very pointed, specific, punchy legal advice in microdoses, and it has been very well received by the business,” says Kresak.

The team continues to evolve its robotic process automation offerings by creating legal functionality in the form of a chatbot — dubbed BotIBI — that responds to high-volume, low-risk questions from internal clients, reducing the need to contact a lawyer. It also provides templates and documents to support the business and assists in licensing and contracting functionalities.

“We’re constantly trying to layer on additional functionalities in terms of what else can be done to make it easy for the business to get what they need to grow,” says Kresak.

IBI Group is currently undertaking a global multi-jurisdictional privacy scan of the business. Kresak’s team supports that initiative by examining its approach to privacy and staying on top of changing laws. The team also ensures that services offerings from the legal group are adapting accordingly. Kresak’s team has also adopted a more comprehensive approach to risk management duringthe pandemic. This approach includes a complete recalibration of both the enterprise and project risk assessments.

The legal team — which generally has six members — is very selective in using external counsel. They retain law firm partners only when their expertise and experience can create value and handle a file more quickly. For example, issues such as tax, corporate securities, or international privacy maybenefit from external counsel expertise, Kresak says.

This year, the legal team is focused on business operations and supporting a new corporate strategy for the company and the next phase of business growth. ESG is a significant part of the next phase, which will take place over three years. This phase will entail a diversity and inclusion strategy across the whole organization and an emphasis on theenvironment and climate action initiatives, such as seeking credible opportunities to monetize climate action initiatives within the company. On the governance side, the team plans to examine policies to ensure they are creating value.

“We are not only thought partners and advisors, but we are really on the frontlines with our colleagues in the business lines, helping them to avoid dark, pointy corners that they might not know about from a legal perspective. It’s that service orientation that’s super important to us,” says Kresak.

Automation and Innovation:

IBI’s legal team developed and implemented innovative tools to increase efficiency:

• Robotic process automation: Created a bot designed to assist IBI professionals in licensing and contracting functionalities.

• Automated contract review tool: Developed an efficient means of responding to and negotiating services and non-disclosure agreements.

• Legal spend management software: Integrated and leveraged AI legal management software, BrightFlag, to create efficiencies and reduce legal spend.

• Cloud-based global entity management: Ensures compliance and governance in an innovative manner.

 

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