For too long the legal department has been seen as something of a necessary evil within an enterprise: vital in keeping the company out of court or at least on the winning side of legal battles, but unable to add much value beyond those duties. This attitude, however, is changing. Increasingly, legal departments are contributing more and even becoming zero-cost centers by streamlining operations, uncovering and inventing new revenue streams, and participating more fully in the enterprise’s overall strategy. Here are three ways to make your legal department a more valuable part of the enterprise as a whole:

Work smarter and kill overhead.

Take the time to really evaluate inefficiencies in your work processes and your overhead expenses. Are you still doing a task manually that could be automated? Are you still printing and mailing documents that could be digitized? Are there supplier contracts you could renegotiate to get a better deal? Every dollar your department is able to proactively save increases legal’s value within the organization.

Explore new and existing revenue opportunities.

Continually examine your contracts to make sure all discounts, incentives, and other negotiated benefits are being realized, and to evaluate whether more favorable terms might be possible. Use your contract management system to proactively identify business areas where buy and sell activities seem mismatched, and work with departments across the enterprise to come up with solutions.

Additionally, make a point to check into your company’s licensing patents and innovations that have been made.

As FindLaw points out, this can lead to a continuous revenue stream that can help offset the cost of making those innovations. In the same vein, protecting your company’s patents and copyrights should be a high priority. If someone infringes on your patent, they need to know that there will be repercussions because you could be losing revenue. Actively support company strategy. Data flows back and forth within your business all day. The legal department should be sure that they are communicating frequently and well with all the other departments so that contract data is linked between the buy and sell sides, insights are shared with executives, and the strategies they’ve come up with are implemented throughout the company. The legal department may feel insulated from many everyday business concerns such as product quality, price, and service, but keeping these things as a focus within overall strategic goals will strengthen your company against the competition. Any insights you gain from contract data should be used to help executives and other department heads make better, more informed decisions. Visibility across the enterprise should be one of your first priorities. Legal can impact the bottom line at your company in a number of different ways. It’s all about thinking creatively, being proactive, and having the right tools.