Corporate lawyers often get flak from others in the organization because of the time they take to review and approve public- or client-facing documents, like contracts or ad images. In a marketing context, legal review often refers to making sure a piece of content meets applicable regulations. “Does everyone in this alcoholic beverage social image post look over the age of 25? Does this commercial for a pharmaceutical product explain potential side effects?” Waiting on in-house counsel to give the green-light can frustrate departments that want to go to market as quickly as possible.

But with companies growing internationally in pursuit of the rising global middle class, marketers need Legal in the marketing process to make sure their content doesn’t breach local rules and laws. Non-compliance anywhere can mean fines and settlements in addition to reputational damage. And the landscape of regulations only becomes more fragmented as countries step further into the global economy.

At the same time, no one wants to hold up the creative process. Marketers innately understand the need for good timing to coincide with seasons or moments when someone is most primed to make a purchase, or to get ahead of a competitor. And Legal’s influence in a company grows when it aids business partners, not when it impedes their goals.

Part of the answer to mitigating legal risk efficiently is understanding how that risk materializes in the creative process. Once marketers and lawyers have done that, they can start redesigning workflows to address those root causes of risk.

Below are three areas where risk can originate — areas which Marketing and Legal must work together to control.

The original idea.

Effective marketing means creativity and novel ideas that help build brand distinctiveness. But as Legal knows, novelty comes with uncertainty—and thus, risk. New slogans, taglines or even types of marketing initiatives could run afield of regulations. Incorporating Legal’s input early on in the creative process can resolve concerns and avoid delays down the road.

The production process.

Those involved in actually creating content won’t always be well-versed in applicable law and regulations. So when ideas move from the briefing process into production, creatives need guidelines to keep their content compliant and to seek advice when they encounter ambiguity, like what disclaimers need to accompany content or how to use customer information.

The (unorganized) approvals process.

Even if an idea is cleared and creatives have what they need to control the traditional tools for approval — email and tracked changes in word documents — they can generate risk by virtue of creating multiple versions of a piece of content at different stages of the review process. The best way to undermine Marketing and Legal’s time and effort is for someone to forward the wrong e-mail with the second-to-last version of a piece of content. Organizations need a system that can centralize input, feedback, and edits to avoid issues of version control.

The image below sums up these and other concerns:

Our new report, The Legal Handbook for Marketers: Efficient Risk Management, walks through three steps to control those risks efficiently in the creative process. Use it as a starting point for conversations with Legal about the review and approvals process globally and at the local levels.