The legal team of McDonald's Singapore faces a balancing act. On the one hand as a food retailer it needs to keep internal spend particularly low. On the other, it is keen to adopt technology to improve the team's output and efficiency. Faz Hussen explains that adopting a DIY approach has helped to square this circle.
Most of our software is built in-house and customised
for the legal team's own use. Using home-grown
software has two main advantages. It is obviously
much cheaper, and developing our own in-house software
means that we can hedge on business costs as opposed to
getting them signed off for external technology.
Perhaps a bigger advantage is that internally developed
technology can be customised to match systems we are
already familiar with. That will ensure other business units can
seamlessly work with the platform. Working with customised
software is much more intuitive and user-friendly. When you
take on technology from external sources there is always going
to be a process of learning and testing.
Working with external providers also means the legal team
loses some degree of control over the software. For example,
a significant provider of due diligence software once decided
to shut down its operations in Singapore. We lost access to the
whole system and had to suddenly find an alternative provider.
This was a major exercise, and it meant we had to get used
to the intricacies of a new system at short notice. That is the
disadvantage of external providers. You simply cannot preempt or
control what they are going to do, and even things like
maintenance or updates are out of your control.
In a previous role I worked at a public body in Singapore that
concerned itself with science and technology, including in
AI and other blue-sky technologies. Protecting intellectual
property was a huge aspect of that work, and it has taught me
that IP is critically important when it comes to developing legal
tech. I believe that, especially for bigger companies, it is always
good to own the IP on anything you use internally.
However, there are areas of technology where we cannot
build our own systems. As you would expect, McDonald's has
a long list of compliance processes to go through. This process
involves many people across a number of different teams. It
must also synchronise with the compliance checks across the
company, so for this type of exercise we are following the
policies and systems of the global business.
For pretty much anything else we use our own technology.
We have built a document tracking system that checks all our
contracts for things like date of expiry and gives us a prompt so
we understand where in the contract cycle a document sits. It is
also useful in that it tells us which counterparties have we given
any limitation or liabilities to.
For the most part, our forms tend to be pretty standard, so
while the back end will be specific to each vendor that we
are dealing with, the main boilerplates are very consistent.
That means we can use software that focuses on tracking
documents and sending us reminders. Some of my peers at
other organisations are starting to use AI for more cookie
cutter stuff such as NDAs, but for us it is still all done by the
internal legal team, including paralegals.
Our process for implementing new technology starts with
recognising the need for a particular piece of software.
Whether that software is going to track contracts, bring in
GDPR compliance or handle more complicated work, you need
to identify the need within the organisation first of all. We then
look at how this can be introduced in a useful and user-friendly
manner, drawing up a customisation and implementation plan
to help us understand what the software should look like. This
latter stage will almost always involve conversations with the IT
This has served us well so far, but inevitably we will reach a
point where our tech needs outstrip our capacity to produce
solutions internally. For example, it will become increasingly
important to have software that can supervise and track user
data and user rights. These days, everyone wants to know what
their data is being used for and to have the right to choose
what parts of their data is logged. Having software to keep
track of this helps to share that obligation or responsibility with