Making a case for additional resource is often as much about the detail as the bigger picture.
Providing accurate detail also shows that you’ve studied the organisation closely and thought hard about the contribution you can make. This will help strengthen your case.
Making the case for extra resource
In the article on making the case for extra resource, we stress the importance of gathering as much information as possible to support your case and to collect this from both your department itself and the wider organisation.
Here, then are the questions to consider.
Questions about your legal department
We’ve broken these questions down into three key areas:
- Risk management; and
- How many regular hours is each team member working per week? (Hint: the EU Working Time Directive suggestion that 48 hours per week averaged worked time is a sensible sustainable maximum is a good reference point. After this people tend to become less productive, more fatigued, less motivated, more likely to burn out and more error prone if they consistently sustain really high numbers of working hours).
- Are any team members working overtime? If so, what’s the root cause of the overtime?
- Have you taken on any new responsibilities? If so, how is this affecting your team?
- What business areas or projects is each team member working on?
- Are any of these taking up a disproportionate amount of time? If so, is it due to volume of work, complexity or inefficiencies in your team or the business?
- What proportion of its time is your department spending on administrative, rather than advisory, work?
- Are your staff spending enough time keeping current on the law, on business, on personal development, on managing and on being managed - as a manager, on average 10% of your total working time is likely be spent on management activity per person managed?
- Note that if you do not allow enough time for these things and to make sure that they are happening properly then you are setting your team and yourself up for mid-term failure as they are not a luxury - they, are a core part of reliable, safe ongoing legal service delivery.
Consider here if new processes, training or technology – or a combination of all three – would best help you solve any of these problems.
- When are the quiet and peak periods?
- What patterns emerge from peak periods? For example, do reporting periods affect your workload?
- Are there any areas of the business that you’re unable to support adequately or even at all? If so, why?
- Do you see consistent patterns of high volume work and/or of client failures which impact on your team emerging?
Consider whether any under-serviced areas are core to the business or are at high risk. If they’re non-core or at low risk, would it be cost-effective to outsource them? Or could you simply agree explicitly with the business that they fall within the business' risk appetite so do not have to do at all (e.g. insisting on own NDA, use of supplier terms on non critical low risk, low value supplies)? Then, if something later goes wrong in this area, then it is not your fault - it is simply a crystallisation of the risk/resources bargain that was struck?
- Are any frequently repeated tasks draining your resource?
Would new processes, templates or FAQ sheets or client used and client audited playbooks or contract auto-generation take the pressure off? If so, do you have the time to create these? Can you make a speed, time and cost saving argument for your team and for the affected internal client that is compelling to make the change and, potentially, to pay for some temporary resource to enable the change to be implemented?
- How much time does your department spend dealing with regulatory compliance and planning for the impact of new legislation?
- Do you have enough time to develop and implement crisis management strategies or corporate response plans for issues such as cyber risk, competition law and health and safety?
- How much time can you dedicate to training and development for you and your team? Is this enough? (for reasoning - see above)
- How much time is available for developing departmental initiatives such as knowledge management, template reviews and process engineering? Have you worked out how to show where the benefits (cash, speed, time used, risk) outweigh the costs and therefore make the case for change?
- How much time are you and your team able to spend on building your awareness and understanding the organisation’s commercial drivers?
- Is there time for regular team meetings and 1:1s?
- Are you and your team able to attend industry networking events?
Questions about the wider organisation
- Are you able to support the business plan as your department is currently resourced?
Get a copy of the plan and drill down into the detail. Aim to be involved in business planning and strategy decisions.
- Is the organisation planning any changes to its structure? If so, what are the legal implications and do you need extra resource and/or different resource (seniority, type or geography of legal knowledge, type of business sector legal experience) to deal with them?
- How do your headcount and staffing costs compare with other business support functions?
- Has the organisation’s turnover, increased over the last few years? If so, has your resourcing increased in line with this?
- If turnover has increased, has the headcount of other functions - are you falling behind?
While not directly relevant you, these questions could help you persuade senior management to treat the legal function differently to others. For example, if you’ve had to use more external counsel or interim staff than usual.
Even if turnover hasn’t increased, you may still need extra resource. Reasons for this could include reducing spend on external counsel, investing in new bidding processes and managing changing compliance requirements. In a Brexit world there will, inevitably, be a lot more that legal needs to do.
- What are the organisation’s sales growth forecasts?
- What plans does the organisation have for new product launches, expansion into new markets or M&As?
Assess the implications of these questions on your department’s workload, resources and current skills.
- What are the main financial risks to the organisation?
Consider the effects of an economic slow-down on your suppliers and customers as well as the organisation itself. Assess how your department could minimise any adverse impact.
- Do you have sufficient time for regular 1:1s with key business managers and stakeholders?
- Does your business require more legal awareness training?
- Would the business like the legal team to participate more in any wider business projects?
Make time to think about these questions and discuss them with relevant people in your organisation. Your findings will help you build a compelling case for the value of the legal function and the importance of ensuring it has the resources it needs.
Always remember that you have several audiences for your message - your own team, your own boss, senior management and internal clients. They all have different needs and interests. Make sure that you consider these and do a version of the message and of the supporting data that reflects their interests and makes them want to engage, accept and support the delivery of any changes to resourcing, cost and work allocation that you propose - the What Is In It For Them In Their Language ("WIIIFTITL") Test!
When making the case for additional resource, you’ll have to demonstrate how much you need, what you’ll do with it and, crucially, what value it will give the organisation. Gather your information carefully and methodically from both your own legal department and the wider organisation. Make sure that you understand all of the audiences that need to buy in to what you are proposing and frame your messages to each audience in language and terms that interest them and are relevant to them.