Editor’s Note: One year since starting as Director of Legal Operations at Cresco Labs, Bill Novomisle was kind enough to answer a few of our top legal tech questions…
How did you decide your legal tech priorities for the new role?
The question of where to start naturally came up during my interview process, and my response then was the same as it is now: Developing financial discipline has to be the first priority within any corporate legal department. It’s always been my experience that, until a general counsel is viewed as an equal and effective financial steward within the business, there’s going to be a limit on what they can accomplish.
So it’s no coincidence that I had the team logging into Brightflag less than five months into my tenure. I knew we needed that single source of truth for our own immediate clarity, but also to gradually boost our credibility in conversations that go beyond the department.
How did you go about getting the rest of the business on board?
The language of any business is ultimately money, so I find that spend management tends to resonate better than some other legal operations topics. Cresco also operates in an environment where regulatory and compliance considerations weigh heavily on our overall business strategy. Our ratio of legal spend to revenue, for example, is more than just a metric we attach at the end of an annual report. It’s a number we continuously monitor and discuss.
The team intuitively understood how the lack of financial visibility was holding us back, so most of the discussion and debate focused on which technology partner to select for this pivotal next step. I narrowed the field down to a few tools that broadly matched our requirements, but user adoption is always at the top of my mind when selecting any software. After all, I can’t prove a positive ROI for a tool my team refuses to use.
Once we saw how fast and easy it would be to gather key insights and manage recurring processes through Brightflag, securing internal buy-in was simple. It also didn’t hurt that Brightflag’s team had built up a record for delivering proactive advice and timely responses throughout the evaluation process. I trusted that they’d be there whenever we were feeling growing pains or navigating a crossroads in our legal ops strategy.
What’s the most important thing you can deliver now that you couldn’t before?
Definitely the depth of insight. We finally feel like we’re able to assess and discuss our supply chain of service providers with the same rigor as any other department. In-house versus outside counsel spending splits. Benchmarked blended hourly rates. Direct cost savings realized. These are the kinds of numbers we can now easily pull into any conversation.
This is particularly valuable to me considering I’m currently looking at several annual budget planning meetings on my calendar over the next few weeks. I know the legal department will be starting all of those sessions from a much stronger place than a year ago. There will be that mutual respect from colleagues who can see that we have our financial house in order and are ready to make meaningful contributions to the highest-level conversations.
I think there’s one other point worth underscoring for teams that are still in the early days of their legal ops journey. The fact that we’ve established clear and comprehensive financial visibility through our first legal tech investment creates an important dynamic. If and when we decide that we want to bring a contract lifecycle management (or knowledge management, or document management) system into the mix, we’ll have even more of the numbers needed to model the ROI and present a compelling business case internally.