Their penchant for out-of-the-box thinking and the willingness to innovate helped the Wärtsilä Legal Affairs department bag the Financial Times European Innovative Lawyer Award 2018. See how their expertise in legal design, early case assessment, and predictive software analytics helped them stand apart from the competition.
The Wärtsilä Legal Affairs department’s journey from a trusted support function to a value-adding, in-house business partner started about four years ago. It was a development that began by structuring processes and guidelines to avoid confrontational dialogues in a way that would provide mutual benefits for both Wärtsilä and the customer.
“Our approach was to create a value stream that would give positive business results by addressing issues early enough,” says Ralf Lindbäck, VP of Legal Affairs at Wärtsilä Services.
Many of the initiatives aimed at improving legal excellence concerned the claims and dispute management process. The philosophy here is that dispute handling should not be an isolated legal issue. All parties and stakeholders must be aware of the situation, especially concerning risk assessment. Here, data at hand and from previous cases is used in a quantified risk assessment method resulting in objective data that aids in case resolution.
“It reveals the risks of losing a case and what the financial consequences of that would be. All this is part of our holistic data-driven claims and dispute management,” says Juri-Pekka Kainulainen, Area Legal Counsel at Wärtsilä Finland.
Because the method objectively presents facts, the opposing party can also be shown the strengths and weaknesses of both sides in the case. This also means there is much less to argue about in the end.
Juri-Pekka Kainulainen, Area Legal Counsel at Wärtsilä Finland and Ralf Lindbäck, VP of Legal Affairs at Wärtsilä Services
This predictive software analytics model uses calculations and forecasting initially used for project risk assessment in the oil and gas industry. The excel application has been adapted to the needs of the legal team and has options for decision-making and multiple changeable parameters.
“We can, for example, compare the outcome of settling for a certain amount instead of pursuing the case to the bitter end,” explains Lindbäck.
“It helps us make better decisions. There are so many complicated and changing details in a case that seeing them in a model helps you spot possible weak or strong points that you had not noticed before,” adds Kainulainen.
The four-year-long journey also involved increasing the awareness of the salespeople through easy-to-understand visual guidance. The team has created eight guiding principles that are presented as small animations to describe what to do if a third party submits a claim and how to address that at a very early stage.
In addition, other tools also help the salespeople assess a conflict situation, such as tools about how to evaluate a case and gather the needed information and also on how to come up with a solution that brings mutual value to both parties.
For their hard work, Wärtsilä Corporation received the Financial Times European Innovative Lawyer Award 2018 in the category ‘Innovation in data, knowledge and intelligence’ in October.
“We are thrilled, and it means a lot to us. Legal teams are usually not considered to be innovative, so in that sense, it is a great recognition that we are on the right track and at the forefront of development,” says Lindbäck.
While the award is recognition that the legal department is thinking outside the box in order to solve challenges creatively, the team is not resting on its laurels.
Ongoing projects include further development of the trade compliance tool, the next smartphone app version, possibly also chat boxes, and in general tools that are familiar to the next generation of lawyers. They also have a Legal Hackathon coming up, which they hope will generate many good ideas from the businesses.
“Our cooperation with the business has always been on a good level. We are now simply shifting gears and taking it to the next level,” concludes Lindbäck.
“Legal teams are usually not considered to be innovative, so in that sense, it (the Financial Times European Innovative Lawyer Award 2018) is a great recognition that we are on the right track and at the forefront of development,” Ralf Lindbäck says