Capturing data about a corporate legal function for the purposes of team productivity is a topic of growing interest amongst the in-house legal community. In a series of blog posts we consider how different types of data can be used to achieve collaborative and productive outcomes for corporate legal teams.
WHY CAPTURE DATA ABOUT WORK CATEGORIES?
Imagine a world-class corporate legal team, a team that operates like a well-oiled machine, leveraging individual strengths to achieve collective goals and deliver valued, high quality legal advice to its business. More than that – this is a team that is called on for its strategic insights, and which is consulted at the earliest stages of key corporate initiatives.
Being able to define and articulate what you ‘do’ – both individually and as a team – is important for achieving a sense of collective pride and empowerment. Having a clear description of the work undertaken by your in-house legal team is a building block to your purpose / vision / mission statement and will provide team-defining and unifying direction for your team as it services internal clients.
On the other hand, a team which has only a vague notion of what it does, or conflicting views within a team built on gut feel, differing personal workloads or recent history, can lead to short term decision making or conflicting perspectives on priorities.
By capturing just two data points on the type of work your legal team delivers to its internal clients, you will have a significant body of information which will help you and your team articulate what you ‘do’ on a daily basis, set goals and celebrate collective successes.
Once articulated, this information can also be used to build both collective productivity and individual professional development, not to mention streamlined and professional legal outcomes for your company.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE CAPTURED?
The type of work done by a corporate legal team will vary enormously from company to company.
Competitive landscape, ownership structure, business model, product type, suppliers and client base are just some of the drivers of the wildly varied levels of different legal work between companies.
Add to this an increasingly complex and rapidly changing regulatory environment, and very few assumptions can be made about the type of work being done by a corporate legal team today or how this might change in the future.
For greater definition of work undertaken by your legal team, you need capture only 2 data points:
- Work category: ideally no more than 10 options.
- Work sub-category: ideally no more than 6-8 options.
Into the detail…
Noting that work categories need to be defined and tailored by each company according to their needs, an example of categories that allow for a quick data selection by a team member include:
- Finance and tax
- Intellectual property
- Privacy and data protection
In this example a team member who selects ‘Contract’ may then select from:
- Goods and services
Two quick choices by your team member and you have invaluable information about the ‘Contract – NDA’ profile of each piece of work being undertaken by your team.
HOW CAN YOU USE THIS INFORMATION?
These 2 data points alone can drive an enormous amount of team benefit including:
- skill acquisition and development, where skills don’t match work definition
- on-boarding new starters, assisting to understand their expected work profile
- external firm selection based on work definition and needs relative to internal skills available
- decisions around automation where repeat work is identified
- growing (or shrinking) regulatory demands or risks over time
- facilitating team collaboration by allowing team members to play to individual strengths or achieve the right mix of work types
Putting aside the empowerment, team pride and productivity opportunities provided by the above list, this information also provides your corporate legal department with invaluable information in its discussions with internal clients with regard to:
- the output of the corporate legal department (eg. “We delivered 55 NDAs this year, an increase of 20% on last year.”)
- resource allocation (eg. “Our team is now too senior for NDAs and is otherwise focused on delivering 27 complex services contracts p.a. We need to outsource, hire a junior lawyer or automate these contracts.”)
- changing regulatory profiles (eg. “We have noticed an increase of 30% in self-reporting to regulators. This suggests a systemic issue which needs to be addressed to mitigate the risk of regulatory penalties.”)
WHAT CAN YOU DO NEXT?
- Analysis of work categories alongside other data points add another layer of opportunities for building a world class corporate legal team:
- Size of matter (by XS/S/M/L/XL or by time) – useful for understanding resource allocation, how busy the team is, lumpiness over time;
- Divisions – useful for considering the appropriateness of self-help tools, automation and cost allocation;
- Complexity / risk / strategy – useful for demonstrating value add by the corporate legal team;
- Resourcing (internal vs external) – useful for determining appropriate match of skills and budget choices.
ARTICULATION OF LEGAL TEAM OUTPUT
Imagine the power of just 2 data points.
Imagine a team which can proudly articulate the number of contracts drafted for its business, the number of disputes finalised or settled, the number of acquisitions completed, regulatory investigations managed, facilitating the ability to demonstrate your team’s value to the business.
Imagine comparing that list year on year and being empowered to have meaningful discussions about resourcing and identifying productivity or automation opportunities in one area of legal work as demands rise in another.
Imagine being able to manage an increasing workload without having to ask your team to work harder, but also freeing them up to focus on the strategic work that really inspires them.
This is a world-class corporate legal team.