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How a Smarter ‘Front Door’ Can Save Stressed-Out Legal Teams

— May 12, 2022

The core issue is a lack of visibility. A lack of visibility into the status of legal requests creates a challenge for ensuring clear communication and obscures the overall picture of the legal department’s activities.

As corporate legal departments face ever-increasing workloads, the need to strategically allocate resources and streamline workflows becomes even more urgent.

Look no further than legal service requests, which can move from a source of frustration to a source of strategic insight if handled correctly. Antiquated means of communicating legal service requests through emails, phone calls and face-to-face conversations remain commonplace. This multichannel communication dispersion creates confusion for legal teams and limits visibility into their operations.

However, in-house legal teams that leverage legal technology solutions can better manage the communication process while delivering a higher standard of work more quickly. This approach, which allows legal teams to centralize intake, triage requests, and understand demand for legal services across the business, heightens legal request visibility, yields efficiencies and informs strategy. Insights on what type of work is being done by whom can drive decisions on hiring, other software needs, and priority-setting, among other factors.    

The need for legal request visibility

General counsels and corporate attorneys face additional strain as more legal work continues to come in house. According to the Association of Corporate Counsel’s 2022 chief legal officers survey, legal teams anticipate multiple challenges this year including more mergers and acquisitions, heightened industry regulations, and an increased emphasis on data privacy.

Amid this surge of incoming legal work comes the potential for troubles. Legal service requests can be misplaced. Time-sensitive matters can languish. In-house lawyers can get bogged down by rote, repetitive tasks, such as standard contract reviews or nondisclosure agreements, better either outsourced or automated through a legal tech solution. Over time, such issues can magnify and escalate into bigger problems. 

The core issue is a lack of visibility. A lack of visibility into the status of legal requests creates a challenge for ensuring clear communication and obscures the overall picture of the legal department’s activities.

A legal technology solution can standardize and streamline the process and avoid the mishmash of managing requests through inboxes, spreadsheets and other traditional methods. The legal team gains a clear perspective into its workload so it can assign tasks to the right people and better set priorities, and the organization as a whole gains a transparent view into progress, which leadership will appreciate.

Efficiencies yield faster and better work

The traditional approach to managing legal service requests can lack structure, and an unstructured legal department can feel chaotic as in-house lawyers contend with a firehose of incoming legal service requests. 

Frustrations could further mount this year as legal departments grow larger. This year 45% of the chief legal officers surveyed by ACC anticipate hiring lawyers, and 29% expect to hire more paralegals, a 13-point and nine-point increase from 2021, respectively. 

Growing corporate legal teams can benefit from standardized systems and modern tools that help in-house attorneys and outside providers complete their tasks more easily and keep requests on the fast track. The gains in efficiency from a centralized system also help reduce the administrative burden that can unnecessarily frustrate lawyers, create confusion and distract them from more strategic endeavors.

The lack of a standardized approach also presents a bigger concern to corporate legal leaders: How to analyze requests at a global level? 

Identifying smarter ways to use resources

The data that a legal service request solution provides can help legal teams understand whether legal work is being done quickly, responsibly and to a high standard. Strategically, such technology can elevate decision-making.

With the newfound ability to study trends over time, the legal team can gradually adapt the ways in which it works and match the right resources, whether self-service, in-house or outside counsel, to the right challenges.

A business department seeking services from the legal department fills out an online template, with each template having its own set of fields and file attachments. Requests are organized by type, department, priority and other factors. From there, the legal team can quickly convert accepted requests into legal matters, define priority levels, and assign next steps.

Executive desk with books; image by Rastaemmler, via
Executive desk with books; image by Rastaemmler, via

Company leaders gain visibility into the true value of the legal department. Insight gleaned from the volume and type of requests the legal team receives helps with resource allocation, answering questions such as: 

  • Does the legal team need to hire a lawyer in a specific area? 
  • Does the legal team need to invest in better contract management workflow solutions where automation can save time and resources? 
  • What work should the legal team push back to the business side because the task isn’t the legal team’s responsibility?

By setting priorities, tracking response times and ensuring proper resource allocation, the legal team leveraging a legal tech solution can build a better business case for how work should be done and what additional resources may be necessary.

Corporate legal teams will face myriad challenges in 2022. Higher regulatory enforcement, increased M&A activity, ESG concerns and other factors will add to the demands on their time, while delivering value will remain essential. Legal technology solutions can help improve workflow while ensuring that legal work is done effectively, whether by in-house attorneys or outside providers. 

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