3 reasons why having ‘legal’ on a lean startup experimentation team is a good idea

Most of the time, when you mention ‘the legal department’ to a product team doing lean startup experiments you feel the mood in the room deteriorating (at least to say).

The situation is even worst in highly regulated industries, where, product teams are already numbed from the fear of ‘persecution’ for even thinking about business experiments.

It’s no surprise, that sometimes, teams doing lean startup experiments nickname their colleagues in the legal department ‘the party breakers’.

Recently I started helping a corporation in a highly regulated industry innovate. A considerable part of what I do is to help product teams design and run business experiments.

The teams I’m working with are cross-functional. So it’s normal to have people from marketing, customer support, finance, engineering and legal on the same team.

What I’ve seen happening consistently is that the teams that have a ‘legal’ member on-board have a higher experiment velocity that the others. They are also always compliant and agree faster on things.

So taking a step back, I analyzed what are the advantages these teams have over the others:

1. get faster feedback (go/no go on the experiment)

The go/no-go feedback loop on taking an experiment live is almost instantaneous. Having the ‘legal’ person sitting across the table and not across the campus, dramatically reduces the go/no-go decision time.

2. help improve the experiment within legal constrains

If the experiment is a no-go, there’s someone on the team that understands the context and can help fix the experiment on the spot.

Without a ‘legal’ person on the team, improving an experiment can take some time. With an external ‘legal’ person time needs to be spent explaining the context, explaining why is experimenting helpful etc.

3. get support for the lean startup experimentation process in the company

Having your experiment compliant is going to win you a lot of ‘hearts and minds’. Not only will managers stop pushing back when they hear about business experimentation but now, they will start supporting it. This support is rooted in the fact that — with legal’s blessing — the experimentation process has only upside.

(Wanna know more about how to manage experiments without hurting your company’s brand? Read Tendayi’s article)

Following these findings I encourage having a legal person on-board every product team. (this is especially valuable for corporation in highly regulated industries)

Most of time, the quality of the collaboration within a team is give by individual personalities of the members and not all (‘legal’) people are alike. But regardless of how stubborn one person might be I still think it helps having them on the team and involving them in the lean startup experimentation process.

Our book The Corporate Startup covers these topics. You can order a copy here.



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