Make the GC Happy With Smart Legal Department Reports

Learn about legal analytics reports for legal team management for the chief legal officer, general counsel or head of legal operations.

In our previous blog, we learnt about legal reporting for the CEO and Board. In this latest instalment about legal department reporting, we'll 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 to include in your legal department reports for General Counsels

What should your legal reports 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 legal report on these three major missions: strategy, risk and budget. 

1. Strategic value

Our legal reporting white paper will show you how to quantify the strategic value of your legal 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. We like a scale of 1 to 10, but you can choose a metric that works for your corporate Legal Department and your context

legal data analytics software

2. Risk analysis

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.

We use low, medium, high and critical in our matter management software. Define your ranges, then apply a risk metric for every matter. It can be helpful to sort your matters by risk in descending order (high-risk to low-risk), so your Legal Department leaders can quickly scan for updates on the most sensitive matters.

3. Legal 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 legal 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 the legal budget should be resourcing: the use of in-house legal staff, external law 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 groups? Is 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 your general counsel who will advocate for your budget (and your bonuses) with the data that shows your value.

Bonus tip: resourcing

Consider that one of the major missions for your Legal Department is resourcing: staffing matters with internal and external resources. Your legal report should provide visibility that enables easier decision-making with regards to resourcing: Where is there too much work? Where is there capacity? How can we more evenly spread the load among internal resources, external counsel, law firms or legal vendors?

Legal reporting for General Counsels: Cadence

The frequency of this report should correspond with your Legal Department leaders’ reporting duties to the C-suite and to the board. For the C-suite, we recommended monthly communication; for the board, in advance of every meeting. Take extra caution to deliver your reports to the Legal Department managers first – don’t let them be surprised by their superiors.

If you are part of a larger team, use this report as the basis for a face-to-face meeting. It will allow your leaders to ask questions and get clarity before they report up the chain, and it will give you a chance to learn more organizational context and hear about upcoming initiatives.

Ready to learn best practices for legal department reporting?

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.

If you'd like to find out more about Xakia's legal analytics software and how our reports and dashboard can help with legal team management, book a demo with the team today, or try it for yourself with a 14-day pilot.

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