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In-House Legal Workloads are Growing: Can Small Hacks Help?
Imagine if in-house lawyers could find more time and productivity with a few tweaks to work habits. It's possible - check out these hacks for streamlining contracts.
In-house lawyers are long on work and short on time, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon: In the latest edition of Thomson Reuters’ State of the Corporate Legal Department, nearly 60 percent of Legal Departments reported flat or decreasing budgets despite increasing matter volumes.
When the fundamentals of the job aren’t likely to change, and the workload doesn’t feel sustainable, something has to give. And that something shouldn’t be your personal life or health.
Instead, what if in-house lawyers could find more time and productivity with a few tweaks to work habits?
“Life hacks” – those scrappy shortcuts and unconventional solutions – need not be limited to the kitchen (although we do marvel at a good pizza-box repurposing). Indeed, there are a bevy of small adjustments that in-house lawyers can make to everyday issues that will yield significant returns in time, resources and sanity.
Let’s take contracts – the lifeblood of your organization’s income statement, and a significant chunk of the Legal Department’s to-do list. The average private company in-house lawyer, according to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s benchmarking data, handles 192 contracts every year. Accounting for holidays and vacations, let’s assume the lawyer works 48 weeks a year; that’s an average of four contracts a week, making it an excellent place to start looking for time savings.
In-house legal productivity hacks
Consider these productivity hacks for streamlining that contract burden:
1. Build (and update) your contract library
Capture, organize and distribute template contracts to the team; make a specific member accountable to ensure all terms and negotiated positions are kept current.
⏰ Time savings potential: 20 minutes per contract = 64 hours a year.
2. Systemize your contract intake
Create a formal, consistent process for contracts that collects all of the necessary information upfront, so lawyers do not burn time with back-and-forth communication to the business clients.
⏰ Time savings potential: 15 minutes per contract = 48 hours a year.
3. Lower your conflict risk
Review your templates to make sure they reflect your business reality. This step manages expectations and will reduce conflict long-term; proactive communication at the agreement level means fewer nastygrams for Legal later. For example, if your contract says you pay invoices within 30 days of receipt, but you know there is a complex documentation process that exceeds that most of the time, spell that out.
⏰ Time savings potential: Five fewer nastygrams per quarter, requiring three hours each = 60 hours a year.
4. Start from the middle ground
Consider your contract templates from a philosophical point of view, too: Are they overly aggressive, requiring multiple rounds of back-and-forth negotiations? Unless you truly embrace the “zero-sum game” approach to customer-supplier relationships, adjust your contracts to a middle-ground position that other parties could conceivably accept the first time. And if not, you will be defending that middle ground, versus trying to justify unfair positions based on “company policy.”
⏰ Time savings potential: Assuming one-third of contracts require discussion, and assuming negotiations take one hour each = 64 hours a year.
In total, that’s 236 hours saved – or just under six whole weeks. A little adjustment here and there can make a six-week difference!
Get ready to boost productivity 🚀
We acknowledge that every organization is different, and there may be no such thing as the “average” lawyer. But we also know that every Legal Department has the potential to uncover new buckets of time by looking at their legal workflows a little differently.
Xakia created our newest white paper, Maximize Your Efficiency, Minimize Your Stress: 36 Productivity Hacks for In-House Legal Teams, to arm you with some new and creative ways to find a little more time in your day – and perhaps a little more balance and a lot less stress.
Download your productivity hacks white paper now!