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Save Time, Work Smarter & Budget Constraints: Themes From IMLA
Municipal legal teams are looking for ways to better manage work and identify efficiency improvements. Here are some themes from IMLA Annual Conference 2023.
The Xakia team recently headed west to the stunning La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs to support the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) at its Annual Conference. Peppered between relevant topical discussions about the challenges facing municipal teams, the Xakia team embraced the opportunity to connect with the IMLA community over tennis, softball, hiking, and delicious meals. As always, this year’s event did not disappoint!
Key takeaways from IMLA
Municipal legal teams carry a heavy load. There is intense pressure to be adaptable, knowledgeable, and capable of managing a wide range of legal issues while serving the best interests of their communities. Each municipal team we spoke with faces a unique set of challenges depending on its size, location, and specific legal issues. More than ever before, municipal legal teams are hunting for ways to work smarter, save time, and identify efficiency improvements.
We left La Quinta inspired once again by this tight-knit community. The conference attendees were keenly aware that their attendance is supported by tax-payer dollars, so they ensured they made the most of the investment of time and money to explore ways to improve their Legal Departments and the services they provide their municipalities.
Our Xakia team appreciated that IMLA attendees made it an essential part of their schedule to meet each vendor to ensure they developed a better understanding of the in house legal technology landscape available to them. This, in turn, created a warm and welcoming environment for the sponsors and fostered a sense of a greater IMLA community.
🌥️ Movement to the cloud
As municipal legal teams increasingly rely on technology and collect data, they are progressively exploring a transition away from on-premise solutions to cloud based legal software platforms. While benefits of moving to the cloud are significant in driving down cost and increasing efficiencies, legal teams must be prepared to address a host of additional issues and ensure that proper policies are in place, including:
- Data privacy
- Compliance with relevant laws like the GDPR and CCPA
Procurement rules can be complex and time-consuming making the transition to the cloud slower than the private sector. Despite these challenges, municipal Legal teams are making progress tackling often mind-numbing bureaucratic processes and regulations and accelerating the modernization of their legal function.
The Xakia team jumped at the opportunity to build awareness around the benefits of cloud based SaaS solutions and direct attention to the easy-to-implement and cost-effective SaaS LegalTech tools available to quickly modernize municipal legal teams. Any opportunity to relieve the burden of restrictive procurement processes and expensive, and often limited IT resources is a welcome conversation in this community.
📲 Technology Adoption
Keeping pace with technological advancements and adopting in house legal software can be challenging for municipal legal departments, particularly in smaller municipalities with limited resources that may not have the in-house technical expertise required to evaluate, implement, and manage new technology solutions.
Our team encountered a lingering misconception that legal matter management solutions are far too expensive or unwieldy to imagine deploying efficiently (assuming it survived bureaucratic scrutiny), particularly amongst smaller teams who’ve felt left out for too long.
The good news? The landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade and small teams now have access to simple, powerful, and affordable solutions (like Xakia 😉) that teams can onboard in less than a day. The Xakia team was encouraged at the level of interest and curiosity from teams of all sizes to learn more about the availability of modern, easily accessible matter management software.
To help expedite legal technology adoption, consider the following tips:
- Keep it simple
- Don't overbuy – pick an initial big hairy paint point to solve and build off it
- Look for a matter management solution that will grow with your team as they progress on their adoption journey
- Explore how to secure funding through grants or partnerships
- Actively promote a culture of innovation within your legal department
- Collaborate with other municipalities and share best practices to help accelerate the adoption of technology solutions
This year’s IMLA Annual Conference provided a valuable opportunity for municipal legal leaders to meet with colleagues and share ideas to drive improvements in efficiency and service delivery. For a naturally risk-averse group – they’re managing taxpayer dollars after all – the ability to learn first-hand which solutions work for teams of various sizes and budgets and to share best practices will help accelerate the pace of LegalTech adoption.
💰 Budget constraints
Municipal legal teams must navigate ever present budget constraints that often limit their ability to hire and retain talented staff, access technology, or adequately fund legal services. Allocating funds for technology upgrades and implementation can be challenging and Legal Departments may need to compete with other critical municipal services for funding.
As it relates to budget approval for technology projects, it helps to build a clear business case:
- Process: where is the waste or inefficiencies in the process?
- Technology: what matter management tools or solutions will help automate the process in a way that will create efficiencies and increase productivity?
- Define the Plan: Identify how you plan to tackle each component – this is often done in stages or phases.
- Build the Business Case: lay out a clearly defined, concise plan that management will understand and appreciate with the cost associated with executing the plan and the return on investment.
The ability to clearly justify the “ask” offers a welcome defense against potential budget scrutiny by the public, the press, or the occasional politician.
💡 Work smarter
A consistent theme this year centered around finding ways to better manage work. Deciding how to allocate limited resources is a constant challenge as Municipal Legal teams must prioritize cases, issues, and projects that are of the greatest importance to the municipality and properly manage which resources should be matched to work. The “hard work made harder” adage hits home for this community.
Local government lawyers are hit with a barrage of work from all different directions on a daily basis, coupled with a lack of technological resources to manage it compared to their private sector colleagues. There is a growing appetite for a legal intake and triage system that not only centralizes the requests in one place for heightened visibility and workload management, but also provides regular, automated progress updates to clients on their projects submitted to the Legal Department.
Did we mention data? Developing more efficient methods to centralize and track work naturally leads to cleaner data collection and the ability to identify ways to work smarter with limited resources:
- Automate reporting = massive time savings (and stress reducer)
- Capture simple metrics: who, what, when, why, how much?
- Better understand turnaround times for different work types and/or specific clients
- Identify areas where you can save time and energy, i.e., create matter templates, develop self-help tools, eliminate unnecessary work.
The pace of discussions and interest in modern matter management is picking up across local government teams, and we’re excited to continue supporting the IMLA community on its LegalTech journey. We hear there might be karaoke in the spring, and we can’t wait to see you in D.C. in 2024!
Simple, powerful, affordable matter management software for Government lawyers
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