Improving the way your legal department operates is an ongoing process that must be continuously fine-tuned and adjusted over time. While there aren’t many quick fixes, there are things you can start doing right away that will put your team in position to take advantage of new opportunities, drive efficiencies, and strategize for the future.
Here are three ways to optimize legal operations to increase productivity, reduce costs, and strategically grow your department.
Create a strategic hiring strategy
One of the best things you can do to improve your legal operations is to staff your department according to your greatest needs and areas of opportunity. In order to accomplish this, you must first conduct a thorough evaluation of your current team, processes, and roles and responsibilities to determine if adjustments are needed and if it makes sense to hire additional staff.
Clearly much has changed in the last year, so it’s very possible that what was working just a few months ago is no longer serving the needs of your department. Once you have made internal adjustments and identified your most significant areas of opportunity, you can make plans to fill in the gaps with new team members with the skills and experience needed to make an immediate impact.
If you’re just starting to focus on legal operations and need help developing your team’s strategy, consider hiring a team lead or legal operations director who can work with your general counsel to build out the future of the department.
If you know that your team is falling behind with the legal tech solutions you need to operate efficiently and automate routine tasks, it makes sense to find an individual with a technology background who can quickly find and implement the right software based on your specific problem areas.
If you have a wide range of legal operations projects on the radar, consider hiring someone with a more diverse legal background who can step in and drive efficiencies across the board.
Since most legal teams, especially smaller departments, have a limited budget available to hire new operations staff members, it’s critical that you develop a hiring strategy that complements your existing team and puts you in the best position to meet your business objectives.
Re-evaluate your outsourcing vs. insourcing decisions
As mentioned above, after a year filled with change and disruption, it’s a good idea to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your current business processes, including which tasks and projects you outsource and which ones you handle internally.
Legal departments everywhere were forced to react and adapt in 2020, which meant team members had to take on different roles and learn new skills to support company goals - often due to bringing more tasks in-house to reduce outsourcing expenses. However, once you’re in a better position to start proactively planning for the future again, you should determine if you’re outsourcing the right tasks based on the strengths and expertise within your department.
When determining what to outsource and what to keep in-house, consider things like:
Your core services as a legal team
Which processes you need the most control over
Which tasks your team can already execute efficiently and which ones get in the way of productivity
Changes in your department (recent hires, changing objectives, etc.) that would impact various processes
By re-evaluating and updating your outsourcing strategy, you can take the steps needed to ensure your team is working as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
Prioritize your technology needs
Improving the technology you use to complete various legal processes and tasks is a critical part of optimizing legal operations, but many teams struggle to get this project off the ground. Terms like “digital transformation” might sound overwhelming to some and actually get in the way of a legal department adopting the technology they need. Most in-house legal teams are busier than ever, and transforming systems and technology sounds like a time-consuming process. But there’s no reason you have to take an all-or-nothing approach to addressing your legal tech needs.
By prioritizing technology upgrades based on things like implementation time and cost and the impact to your department, you can find ways to quickly address your most significant pain points.
If your current billing process is a problem and you often run into issues related to invoices from legal service providers, consider investing in e-billing software.
If your process of responding to legal matters is inefficient, e-discovery or matter management software might solve your biggest challenges.
If you’re struggling to manage and report on your corporate agreements, it could be time to adopt contract management software.
If time or budget constraints are preventing your legal department from completing your digital transformation, start by adopting the one technology solution that will have the most meaningful impact on your team’s work, then plan to make additional improvements over time.
To read more on improving legal operations within your organization, download Legal Department Operations: A Guide for General Counsel.