It’s not your imagination: Everything is harder right now.
- Workloads are up. In a global survey by Morrison Foerster, 63 percent of general counsel said their Legal Department is busier now.
- Work is changing. Another 20 percent said their volume didn’t necessarily change, but the type of work had. No wonder that 64.5 percent of general counsel said “providing advice on unprecedented issues” was a new and significant stress.
- The workplace has fundamentally changed. A whopping 98.2 percent of Legal Departments have gone or will go remote. Almost one-third of general counsel rated “managing a remote team” among their biggest challenges.
And it looks like we’re going to be here a while; these same general counsel expected the impact of COVID-19 to hold steady for at least 12 months, then dissipate – but not disappear – in 24 months.
Again, it’s not your imagination. It’s your new reality, and it’s time to decide how your Legal Department will weather the rest of 2020. Will you simply survive? Will the formidable stressors and inconvenience cause a dive in morale, productivity and results?
Or… could you possibly set your team up to thrive?
This blog series has focused on Agile, a way of working that’s being used by more than 70 percent of our business colleagues, according to the Project Management Institute, and an increasingly popular matter management system for in-house teams. In the spirit of full disclosure, we planned this content before COVID-19 changed everything. But we decided to stay the course because we know that right now, Legal Departments need the structure, communication and visibility that Agile can bring, perhaps more than ever before.
In our last blog, we looked at how Agile can relieve stress by helping lawyers and staff organize their work into manageable tasks. Today, let’s talk Visibility: Who’s doing what? When is it due? Where are we on this? If your answer – or your business client’s – is “Who knows,” it may be time to get Agile.
Visibility Through Agile
Long before COVID-19, many business clients worried about their work languishing “with Legal.” These concerns are exacerbated as entire organizations are remote and dispersed. If you can create a simple, streamlined way to show both your team and the business where projects stand, you will eliminate short-term anxiety and establish long-term trust.
As Harvard Business Review summarized, a key principle of Agile holds that “teams should keep their progress and impediments constantly visible.” But how does this work? And how can you do it without creating another drain on your time, like a manual report?
Early adopters of Agile created visibility by charting their work using Post-It notes and a wall: Each note represents a task, and it moves from “to-do” to “doing” to “done.” Talk about legal operations made simple! Project teams then could invite their business clients in to view the wall and discuss progress.
It’s an approach some Legal Departments still use today; we included one such story in our white paper, Agile 101: A Guide for Lawyers.
Of course, right now you have access neither to your office walls nor your business clients.
Consider a higher-tech approach. At Xakia, for example, our matter management for in-house software automatically generates an online version of the Post-It note board. Team members can see their tasks organized by backlog, work-in-progress and complete. On the macro level, Legal Department managers can quickly see who’s buried in backlog and who has capacity. (Recall that nearly two-thirds of general counsel said their Legal Department is busier now; capacity is a hot commodity.)
At the same time, through our legal operations software, this information syncs to an internal client portal: As members of the Legal Department progress with a matter, it is automatically updated; business clients can see to whom it has been assigned, matter status, and more. No more guesswork – and no need to try to jam in another Zoom or Teams call.
Shine a Light
Returning once more to the Morrison Foerster survey, it’s clear that Legal Departments need a new way to work. Among the answers general counsel provided when asked their biggest challenges in the coronavirus crisis:
- Keeping the team focused on strategic priorities;
- Moving transactions forward that generate revenue; and
- Supporting the business.
Through a simple legal operations management workflow, Agile can keep your team members – many of whom are very justifiably distracted – focused and not overwhelmed. The tactical 1-2-3 of “to do”/doing/done can advance your important transactions. And by showing your business units where their work stands, you demonstrate your value and foster some critical camaraderie.
You will do more than simply survive this chaos; you will thrive.