REUTERS | Amit Dave

How to ensure effective compliance with a time-crunched legal team

As a Magic Circle lawyer turned GC, I genuinely thought I had tried everything to make compliance a reality: from quizzes, workshops and role play, through to diving into IT systems to identify payment schemes or correct unfortunate wordings in commercial templates. I thought I had done it all. However, despite my best pedagogic efforts, I would still see people’s attention gradually drift to their phones during training sessions.

Yet the “tick-the-box” compliance approach is no longer enough. Most regulators in EMEA and the US require companies to demonstrate quality and efficiency to a measurable degree. For example, the:

  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Practical Guide to Anti-Corruption and Compliance advocates creating a sense of ownership among stakeholders.
  • French Anti-Corruption Agency’s guidelines require senior management to commit to setting up a culture of integrity, transparency and compliance.

However, the amount of effort needed to change ingrained behavior would require dozens of lawyers on the ground to really make a difference. So how do you create a compliance culture with budgets inversely proportionate to legislative inflation?

Start with the people

Beyond buzzwords and flashy icons, that’s simply what legal design stands for: putting the user at the centre of the action. So what does that mean in practice?

Get to know your users

Find out who they are, and what their goals, expectations, constraints and even frustrations are.

Tip: Try to identify a catchphrase or tagline that defines them. For example: “KPIs, KPIs and KPIs”.

Put yourself in their shoes

Try to think what kind of legal advice you would value if you were under pressure to achieve your business goals, had little or no time, and did not have a law degree.

Tip: “Solution-oriented” advice does not mean simplifying the law. Your advice stays the same but just starts with the solution. For example:

“You can hire an intermediary if you have performed screening under Company Policy XYZ and there are no red flags. If you skip this step, you’re putting yourself and the company at risk.”

Work with your users

Invite them to a workshop, meeting, “learning lunch” or breakfast (whatever works in your organisation) and ask them to define their user journey and the main pain points of the compliance issue you’re trying to tackle.

Tip: Get an internal sponsor to support this new, collaborative approach to help you sell the idea internally. Be persistent; it may not be easy to organise the first workshop but after that initial meeting, you’ll have a fan club.

Identify a practical solution

For each of the pain points, work with your users to identify a practical solution and insert it at the right place in their user journey.

For example, users may consider that “all intermediaries are corrupt anyway; that’s just the way the business works.” Identify the commercial documents that they would usually consult at this stage, and insert a plain language (ideally visual) reminder of the company’s policy to be applied when choosing an intermediary. You should also include clear instructions for the intermediary about what the company expects from them.

Prototype early and iterate

Create your first prototype rapidly after the first workshop, get your users’ reactions to it and refine it.

Tip: There’s no such thing as a perfect prototype; it’s meant to be imperfect and then improved through iteration.

Now, what does it look like in practice?

User-centricity, story-telling and visualisation are powerful tools to help improve the efficiency of compliance programmes. And the co-creation process brings about easier adoption and a sense of ownership, which leads to measurable results.

Dot. is a legal design agency that aims to transform the practice of law by putting the user at the centre of the action.

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