You’ve done the work. You have a legal data analytics infrastructure in place; you are collecting and analyzing data; you are starting to use data to drive smarter operations and better resourcing. Soon, you will see results – in your Legal Department, on your bottom line and in the C-suite.
How can you keep the momentum going?
Smart Legal Departments use data to fuel continuous improvement across all functions. There are four critical areas where data will support your quest to be a proactive part of the business: You need a plan, and the money, tools and people to deliver on it.
ONE: STRATEGIC PLANNING
Nearly half of corporate Legal Departments work without a formal plan, according to Xakia’s Legal Operations Health Check survey. Among those who do plan, quality and execution may be lacking; less than one-third said they plan at least “moderately well.”
By formalizing your Legal Department strategy, you can ensure you tackle the most important initiatives. Without a written plan, you may sacrifice your most ambitious projects for business as usual; recall that according to FindLaw, nearly half of in-house counsel are too busy “fighting fires” to accomplish long-term goals.
The first step in creating your Legal Department strategic plan is to determine where you want to go. How do you want the department to look at the end of the year?
Refer to your data. How is your work trending, and how should you best prepare? Where are the largest risks? What are the company’s strategic initiatives, and how well is the Legal Department supporting them? The information you have collected will guide you toward purposeful, positive change.
Visit xakiatech.com/blog/legal-department-strategic-plans to download our white paper, Nine Steps to a Legal Department Strategic Plan, and a template you can use to create your own plan… on just one page.
Your budget is where strategy gets done; it’s essential to think beyond “last year plus five percent.” Data will empower you to not only forecast your financials, but refine the operations behind them.
Just by analyzing external spend, you will address what’s likely the largest portion of your budget. Law firms account for 49.3 percent of in-house budgets, with non-law firm vendors taking another 5.2 percent, according to Altman Weil. Is your Legal Department paying premium rates for work that’s of low complexity and low strategic value? Is one business client outsourcing a volume of work that could be more efficiently handled by a dedicated in-house resource? What repeating work could be better managed with an alternative fee arrangement?
Starting the budget process with a well-honed set of data will result in a better financial picture, to be sure: You will align your law firm spend with actual value, and you will demonstrate to the Finance Department that your budget is more than guesswork and rounding. But better yet, you’ll enter each budget cycle with new, informed ways to deliver more value to your business and a commitment to make them happen.
Visit xakiatech.com/blog/the-data-driven-legal-budget to download our white paper, to download our white paper, Ten Steps to a Smarter Legal Budget, and a worksheet for your Legal Department’s next budget.
THREE: LEGAL TECH
According to Altman Weil’s Chief Legal Officer Survey, 57.6 percent of Legal Departments report using more technology tools to increase their efficiency. But according to Xakia’s Legal Operations Health Check survey, the extent to which legal teams are actively planning their technology procurements varies widely. No departments of five lawyers or fewer said they had a technology roadmap, while such plans are in place for about one-third of teams of six to 10 lawyers and a staggering 71 percent of departments with more than 50 lawyers.
Taking the time to strategically consider your technology is imperative for your efficiency and effectiveness. Without a plan that accounts for the organizational strategy, department and business needs, timing and budget, you risk making one-off decisions that could lead to tech that doesn’t meet your most pressing needs, cooperate with other software, or most critically, work for your people.
It’s time again to refer to your data. Especially relevant for your technology discussions will be the roundup of that simple, low-stakes, high-volume work that could be automated.
Visit xakiatech.com/blog/white-paper-legaltech-roadmap to download our white paper, Create a Legal Technology Roadmap in Three Steps. This resource provides guidance for the process of technology planning and a template for creating your own roadmap.
FOUR: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Data also will help you create and retain a productive and functional team. Of course, data can help you identify bottlenecks, but smart Legal Departments expand its application beyond diagnostics. People work best in environments where they feel supported and challenged; the information you collect can provide factual structure to address important human issues like individual workloads, collaboration and growth opportunities.
As one general counsel explained: