GE Healthcare Eyes Automation in Its Legal Operations

By Yin Wilczek, Bloomberg BNA

GE Healthcare is finding automation to be one of the biggest challenges as it builds its legal operations function, Vice President and General Counsel Laura O’Donnell said.

The company’s in-house lawyers have been wrestling with how legal processes that are tailored for specific needs can be made “repeatable and automated without losing the good analysis that we are known for as a profession,” O’Donnell told Bloomberg BNA.

Legal operations serve in-house departments—and make them more efficient and cost-efficient—by using project managers to manage contracts and outside vendors.

GE Healthcare, the Chicago-based medical technologies and services arm of General Electric Co., is a $17 billion business that operates in 120 countries. While GE has had a legal operations function for some time, GE Healthcare is developing its own function to serve specific needs, O’Donnell said.

She spoke with Bloomberg BNA June 5 on the sidelines of the Association of Corporate Counsel’s Legal Operations Conference in Chicago.

App for NDAs

One benefit GE Healthcare already has reaped from its nascent legal operations is an app that allows the company’s technical workers to self-generate nondisclosure agreements that customers can sign electronically within minutes. “It’s been a big win and given us a flush of accomplishment,” O’Donnell said. “We’re looking forward to automating more things.”

The biggest takeaway for other companies that are developing similar operations? “Go all in with it,” O’Donnell said. “Don’t look at” legal operations as a back-office function; it should be “front of the house.”

“My ops leader sits on my staff, appears with all the GCs,” she said. “I think that’s your first most important step if you’re contemplating ops.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com