Five Rules to Drive Legal Department Turnaround Time

For business clients of an in-house Legal Dept., the single-most important metric is turnaround time. These five rules will help you improve velocity.

Business moves fast, and expects everybody to move fast with it. After all, business drives profit, and anybody who slows down business, slows down profit. Right?

With this mindset, the Legal Department metric that business cares about most is velocity, or turnaround time.

If a Legal Department wants to improve their turnaround time, is it useful to think about their velocity as akin to the table turnover rate at a restaurant?

(For anybody who didn't wait tables in their university days, table turnover has a very high correlation to profitability - the more customers you can serve at each table, and the faster a table turns over to the next patron, the higher the profitability.)

For some fun, I googled "improve restaurant table velocity" and found this article. Whilst the subject matter of serving tables is vastly different to delivering in-house legal advice, there were enough parallels that I found myself drawing analogies.

How to improve velocity (and profitability) in restaurants (paraphrased):

  1. Use an online booking system: understand (and staff) peak times, embrace software
  2. Optimize your dining room layout: remove obstacles to facilitate efficient meal delivery
  3. Train your staff to be efficient: deliver menus when seating, take orders quickly etc.
  4. Have a simple and short menu: simplify decision making, make food preparation faster
  5. Encourage contactless payments: close the transaction quickly to encourage departure

Can this be compared to a Legal Department's legal intake and matter management workflow?

How to improve velocity (and productivity) in a Legal Department:

  1. Use a system to receive requests
  2. Optimize your work assignment
  3. Train your staff to use productivity tools
  4. Allow for legal document automation and business client self-service
  5. Deliver work into a portal for rapid matter completion

Let's dig into each of these a little deeper.

In-House Legal Velocity Rule #1: Use a system to receive requests

If you want to understand - and staff - your peak times, and keep your in-house customers calm, you need to make sure that you systemize the manner in which you receive legal requests.  A legal intake system - preferably delivered as part of a broader matter management software - will allow you to:

  • systemize the receipt of legal requests so that they are complete with instructions, uniform in format and easily digested by your team
  • deliver automated alerts and notifications that will keep customers informed about the receipt and progress of their legal request
  • provide much-needed data to inform your Legal Department about the key periods of demand, frequent flyer clients and types of work required.

This part of the in-house legal workflow does not require human intervention and will minimize the time investment by your legal team at the front end of a legal matter.

In-House Legal Velocity Rule #2: Optimize your work assignment

Removing blockages from the point of the request to assignment within your team will help to speed up overall turnaround time. Think of the wait-staff who walk a table order back to the kitchen - a well designed restaurant that keeps the traffic flow efficient will ensure that this is done in minimal time.

So too, a legal intake system that allows for the rapid assessment of a legal request, capacity within the team and assignment to the right team member will ensure your turnaround time is not weighed down before the legal work has even started.

In-House Legal Velocity Rule #3: Train your staff to use productivity tools

Assuming that your team has mastered word processing skills (still one of the biggest productivity uplifts for lawyers!), each of the following will ensure that you start legal work requests efficiently, don't waste time searching for information, and progress work quickly without accepting unnecessary risk:

  • your templates / precedents are up to date and centrally stored
  • you have matter management software for basic record keeping
  • you have (and use) a document management system 
  • you have standard positions on key, repetitive legal issues

When these have been mastered, you can dive into the myriad of productivity tools available to in-house legal teams that will continue to shorten turnaround time, including the wonderful world of generative AI, but these foundational tools will save you time on each and every piece of work you do, irrespective of your budget.

In-House Legal Velocity Rule #4: Allow for automation and self-service

Like the short menu in a restaurant, a quick, simple self-service tool will ensure that submissions are made quickly and efficiently. Even better, a set of self-service tools or document automation will ensure that:

  • legal requests for simple documents that do not require legal team intervention can be delivered to business clients instantly
  • repetitive work requests that DO require legal review can be delivered in draft form to the Legal Department (cuts out the entire first stage of drafting)
  • frequently asked questions can be searched and delivered instantly

Done properly, this rule has the potential to drastically reduce turnaround times for specific work requests and across the entire body of Legal Department work. Using legal intake data to understand legal work being requested and by whom is a golden opportunity that informs the identification of automation opportunities.

In-House Legal Velocity Rule #5: Deliver work into a portal for rapid matter completion

Restaurants have set up contactless payment. The Legal Department needs to close the deal with delivery of work through a client portal. Your business clients want:

  • a clear, central record of the work requests they have made
  • all discussions that have taken place in relation to the work request
  • all documents related to the work request
  • clear handover and confirmation that the work request has been completed

The 'tail' of a legal request can be the most frustrating and time consuming, as your business clients chase you for the final sign off, or you chase them for the final copy of the signed document. Cut to critical information and get this across the line - fast - to keep that turnaround time as tight as possible.


How to measure turnaround time?

Measuring turnaround time on a legal request is very straight forward: the date of the request to the date of completion. The best legal matter management software will do this automatically, and display the metrics in a clear format - offering a comparison over time so that you can measure and manage your performance for different work classifications such as risk or priority of work. Legal Department turnaround time

Powerful in-house legal data analytics drive performance 

For teams of 2 to 20, Xakia has made its powerful analytics available without the need to leverage your own data analysts, internal IT resources or another expensive module in your in-house legal software. Xakia's analytics are available at every Xakia subscription tier. And in true Xakia style, these analytics are distilled into a simple, actionable format that everybody will understand. 

Communicate with your business clients with reports delivered out-of-the-box, keeping them informed about the turnaround time your Legal Department achieves for them across all their legal requests.

Get critical insights into your team's performance with legal analytics software

To learn more about Xakia's legal analytics software and how turnaround time can help you deliver work to your business clients, fast, get in touch with the team today for a demo OR start your free 14-day trial here.


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