Webinar report: Having the right focus as a legal team
Managing workload and creating value
Legal, as an in-house resource, is finite, so the key is to be hyper-aware of how we use our time, our focus and our headspace.
One of the biggest challenges for in-house legal teams is keeping up with ever-increasing workloads while operating with delivery models that aren’t scalable.
That was the message of Victoria Swedjemark who presented our recent webinar, Having the right focus as a legal team: managing workload and creating value. This webinar is part of a series - more information regarding the next sessions can be found here.
Victoria is a Partner at legal strategy and management consulting firm, Venturis Consulting Group and the Founder of Glowmind, and she helps legal leaders develop the legal function and the team, to create more value with more impact, work more efficiently and future proof approaches.
The four critical enablersTo help in-house legal leaders move from being busy to being effective, Victoria set out her four critical enablers – and strategies for activating them.
1. FOCUS – what’s the role and strategy of your legal function?
It’s crucial that you, your team and indeed everyone across the organisation has a clear understanding of what the legal function is there for.
This comes down to positioning and defining a clear vision. As a department, decide:
- Why you exist;
- What success for you looks like; and
- Exactly what you do – and what you don’t do.
Next, use these decisions to create your operating model and use your strengths to maximise the value you create. You may find it helps to split your priorities into three categories:
- Strategic - matters of importance for your organisation’s long-term performance and success;
- Tactical – how you’ll support key business projects and initiatives in the coming year or so; and
- Operational – the role legal will play on a day-to-day basis. This could include contract drafting, daily risk management and compliance.
2. RIGHTSOURCING – who does what and how?
Rightsourcing is about how you segment work and who (or what technology) you allocate it to. First of all, decide what types of work should be:
- Handled within the legal function;
- Delegated to others;
- Carried out within a self-service function; or
- Regarded as outside the remit of the legal function.
As you consider these options, think too about whether they need to be handled by a lawyer or other members of your team. Generally, where work is high risk, complex or requires specialist legal skills or knowledge, it’ll fall into a lawyer’s in-tray. Often, however, non-lawyers in a legal function can handle straightforward or routine tasks where the risks are low and the relevant legal know-how can be transferred to them effectively.
Next, consider using technology to free up people’s time and accelerate processes. Tasks that best lend themselves to technological solutions are those that have a clear workflow and can be standardised. And, if using technology helps you generate actionable data, so much the better. Technology options for legal functions can include:
- Task and workflow automation;
- AI powered document/contract review; and
- Outside partners powered by technology.
Another option is outsourcing, beyond just traditional law firms – engaging new types of external providers to handle processes and managed services. Outsourcing is an opportunity to:
- Free yourself and your teams up to manage core projects;
- Delegate routine, yet important, work to people who specialise in it; and
- Cut costs.
3. BOUNDARIES – where do you draw the line?
Given that your resources are limited, you need to set boundaries. Victoria’s advice is to position yourself as:
- Accountable for the overall structure, management and oversight of the legal function;
- Responsible for carrying out certain tasks and delegating or outsourcing others; and
- Informed or consulted on key matters, such as the major strategic decisions the organisation makes.
And, without drowning yourself in the finer details of every aspect of law, your legal function should set the tone and structure for managing key areas more holistically, such as:
- Contracts – by creating templates and guidelines for routine contracts and only getting involved in complex strategic drafting or negotiations;
- Corporate housekeeping – by providing holistic support structures and governance, including clear roles and responsibilities to keep the house in order; and
- Risk management and compliance – by building a robust enterprise management system, securing buy-in with the board and scanning the horizon for new risks.
4. PRIORITISATION – how do you manage entry level needs?
The legal team doesn’t have to be first port of call for entry level support. Depending on the nature of routine enquiries, you could set up protocols that direct them to first line support from:
- Contract managers;
- Privacy officers;
- Customer service colleagues;
- Super users or ambassadors in the organisation; or
Alternatively, consider setting up self-service functions that enable internal clients to access frequently-requested types of support. Many in-house legal functions are currently saving huge amounts of time by empowering colleagues to help themselves through internal offerings such as:
- Contract automation;
- Document automation;
- AI-powered reviews; and
And finally, don’t underestimate the value of information resources that colleagues can access and consume at any time, without having to pass by a traditional legal Intranet. Meet users where they are. Many entry-level legal needs can be met with relevant and easily-accessed resources like:
- Legal guidelines embedded in systems and business processes where people are;
- Legal portals/matter intake and triage systems with dialogue functionality and intuitive, great looking user interfaces; and
- Legal know-how videos and other digital knowledge transfer assets that are easy to access and consume.