Nearly half of in-house lawyers feel stressed either most or all of the time, according to research from Law360. Stressors in the profession are myriad, to be sure, but for many Legal Departments, the lack of a structured workflow may be a contributing factor – especially now, with so many teams suddenly displaced from offices and working remotely.
If you are flummoxed by trying to manage your workload or your Legal Department through a hodge-podge of to-do lists and institutional memory, with no means to coordinate work across a dispersed or virtual legal team, it may be time to consider a change.
According to the Project Management Institute, “Agile” projects are reportedly 28 percent more successful than those managed traditionally. Agile was borne of the software industry, where “success” meant a glitch-free product launch; getting started in legal operations, your definition may be a little more nebulous.
In this blog series, we will explore the application of Agile to in-house legal departments, a style of working that has now been adopted from organizations in nearly every industry, from manufacturing to the military.
Simply put, Agile is an approach to management that breaks down projects into short, discrete stages; emphasizes communication and visibility; and focuses on results over process. It is rapidly gaining in adoption amongst in-house legal teams. (For a full briefing, download our complimentary white paper, Agile 101: A Guide for Lawyers.)
Could Agile be a solution for your legal operations? Could it be a way to manage your remote legal department? Before diving in, answer these three questions.
Is your style of work disrupted enough to inspire change?
For most teams, a transition to Agile will require a tracking tool (like matter management software), a shared commitment to use it, and the adoption of more frequent – but shorter! – meetings or calls. Hardly Herculean tasks, but in any organization, change can be challenging.
However, if your office closed abruptly in the wake of COVID-19 and you’re trying to unwind who’s-doing-what remotely, Agile could provide much-needed structure. Even within the day-to-day norm – with a team on the edge of burnout, irritated business clients or the risk of missed deadlines – Agile may be an ideal solution.
Can your in-house team work under an Agile system?
Because the success of Agile hinges on frequent communication and reporting, the structure of your team matters. Consider these criteria:
- Can your Legal Department easily connect remotely via tele- or videoconference?
- Can you have daily “stand-ups” in person or by telephone/video? (For those Legal Departments with individuals across a wide variety of time zones, is there a window that could work for all or most?)
- Can you facilitate collaboration and reporting with a matter management system for in-house legal teams, like Xakia?
- Do you have a culture of accountability?
- Do you have a leader within the department who can guide the daily “stand-ups”?
What does success look like?
Recall that Agile projects are reportedly 28 percent more successful than those managed traditionally.
Bearing in mind the adage that “what gets measured gets done,” consider an overarching goal for your Agile transition which will feed your in-house legal data analytics and help you demonstrate ROI from this Agile transition. Some options, courtesy of Harvard Business Review: higher team productivity, faster turnaround time, better quality and lower risk.
While your in-house legal Agile system may ultimately accomplish all of those, choose your most pressing objective, and design your implementation around that outcome.
Are you ready to get started? Our free white paper, Agile 101: A Guide for Lawyers, will help you design a low-stress Agile system for your Legal Department today.