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Part 3: Make the GC Happy - Three Keys to Smart Legal Department Reports

August 20 2019 by Jodie Baker

Reporting should be more than a necessary evil: It’s an opportunity to connect with your Legal Department’s stakeholders and share critical information. This series will address the art and science of reporting by audience. In short, who needs to know what? This installment will cover legal team management: the chief legal officer, general counsel, deputy general counsel, head of legal operations and others responsible for the department’s success. 

General counsel expect to shift their focus in the years ahead, according to the Wolters Kluwer General Counsel Barometer. Indeed, general counsel at companies of every size said they expected to become “increasingly strategically focused” over the next three years.  

This means the reports you prepare for your Legal Department’s managers should support this objective. Stay out of widget-counting, and stay out of the weeds. Focus instead on preparing a purposeful briefing on the aspects of the business for which your general counsel is accountable to the CEO and the board. 

What should you include? While every general counsel’s roles and responsibilities are different, Altman Weil’s 2018 Chief Legal Officer Survey provides helpful intelligence. This survey asked in-house leaders what their superiors valued most. Among the top responses: 

  • Supporting strategic business objectives; 
  • Managing legal risk; 
  • Controlling legal spend. 

As a starting point, base your report on these three major missions: strategy, risk and budget. 

  • Strategy. Our white paper on legal reporting will show you how to quantify the strategic value of your matters, then how to illustrate them for easy visibility. Start by ensuring your entire team is well-acquainted with the strategic objectives of the organization. Then, after you have classified your matters by strategic value – again, our white paper will show you how – you can chart them. This will allow the Legal Department leaders to show their supervisors how you are contributing to the execution of the strategy, and it will help them diagnose and troubleshoot how the team is spending its time.  
  • Risk. Of course, risk can encompass a variety of potential hazards to the organization: legal risk, financial risk, business risk, reputational risk. This report should enable the Legal Department management to quickly ascertain and explain the organization’s current risk profile. Consider a quick list of five to 10 matters with the highest risk exposure, as well as a chart to illustrate the general risk profile. 
  • Budget. This isn’t about providing an accounting ledger; it’s about avoiding surprises. To that end, think micro and macro. At the micro level, what matters (or batches of matters) look as though they may go over budget, and why? At the macro level, how is the overall budget going year-to-date? 
    Coupled with budget should be resourcing: the use of in-house legal staff, external firms and legal vendors. The Legal Department leaders ultimately are responsible for ensuring resourcing isn’t just adequate; it’s strategic. How is the balance of internal and external work? Is the internal work allocated fairly, among both individuals and groupsIs the external work going to the right firms at the right price? 

This report is one of your most important: Not only does it show your immediate supervisors the contributions made throughout the Legal Department, it arms the executives who will advocate for your budget (and your bonuses) with the data that shows your value. 

Ready to learn best practices for Legal Department reports? Download our white paper, Best-in-Class Legal Reporting, today, and you will receive tips for how to quantify and illustrate your data, sample reports and recommendations for the right content, cadence and delivery for each of your stakeholder audiences.   

Download White Paper

Curious how to automate your metrics and your reports? Xakia is here to help: To learn more, book a demo today. 

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