Modular but seamlessly connected, a legal workspace helps teams to solve immediate needs but is easily scalable.
Many in-house lawyers start their career in private practice but soon became dissatisfied with lawyering in that environment: advising at arm’s length, reactive, and not being part of the solution, ultimately deciding to take their talents in-house.
Upon moving in-house, many lawyers find that legal doesn’t utilize legal-specific technology or tools to help deliver on business goals. They’re expected to use existing systems and technology utilized by the wider organization, such as Outlook, a document management system (oftentimes so old and clunky it’s incapable of managing anything). Information is everywhere (shared drives, personal drives, desktops), and most other responsibilities are handled manually, including contract approval and execution. Legal requests are received by email, telephone, or foot traffic — there is no control over what, when, and who did what. If it has a hint of legal, then it goes through legal — teams often feel the need to review everything, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s because that’s what legal does.
Legal teams who find themselves constantly fighting workload peaks with little budget to outsource work tend to work longer hours or become disengaged with the business in an attempt to stem the flow, closing the office door for ’thinking’ time and not attending operational meetings. They may not realize it, but those efforts, whilst well-meaning, are sometimes further barriers that reinforce an organization’s perception that legal is untouchable, unapproachable, and the department of ‘no’.
In this environment, it’s hard to be a valued business partner, influence success, and grow professionally. Employees often feel dissatisfied with their work, increasing feelings of overwhelm and business disconnection. None of this is why legal professionals move in-house.
Unfortunately, this experience isn’t unusual. Gartner reports that 54% of lawyers are exhausted, and 20% are highly exhausted. The 2022 In-house Legal Technology Report finds that in-house lawyers are wasting precious time on manual tasks, with over 77% spending one hour a day jumping between various systems and a monstrous 39% spending 3+ hours on manual tasks. Incredibly, 40% of legal professionals spend 3+ hours searching through emails to determine the history or status of work or locating work outputs, engaging in back and forth with the business to gather information or to update them on the status of work. This translates into significant cost for the business and legal; time and effort that would be better spent on high-value issues that enable the business to achieve objectives.
While legal teams might solve some of these issues with stand-alone point solutions, such as e-signature, or document management, navigating between disconnected systems is another source of legal waste and can add to frustrations. Alternatively, legal workspace technology offers an intuitive intake process that allows teams to manage matters, contracts, documents, knowledge, and legal spend in one place, creating the foundation for a high-performing legal function. Modular but seamlessly connected, a legal workspace helps teams to solve immediate needs but is easily scalable as the team grows and needs become more complex. Teams operating within a legal workspace are better connected with their work, team, business, and outcomes.
Many teams don’t have access to a legal workspace, but those that do are able to use it to:
1. Gain visibility
Legal workspaces grant in-house lawyers visibility and better control over workflow through features like intake and triage. Implementing an intake process with configurable forms, including data fields from prioritization criteria (see next point), ensures complete information is received from the business at the outset, and work is assigned to the person with the right skill set and capacity. Using a triaging process controls the flow of work and avoids overwhelming the team.
Rather than working on the loudest projects, apply criteria to evaluate work requests and determine priority. When developing criteria, it’s important that legal consults with the business because legal should only be working on business needs. Ensure legal is working in the areas the business sees value.
Legal workspaces allow lawyers to automate documents and processes, granting time and resource back, saving money, and reducing manual errors. Start with repeatable, low-skill processes or documents such as contract approvals and non-disclosure agreements. When legal and the business design automated workflows together, it optimizes engagement while ensuring legal is made aware of issues at the right time.
4. Knowledge Management
Legal generates a huge amount of work that can be repurposed and accessed by the wider business. Implementing a knowledge portal gives your business access to self-help articles, guides, and answers to FAQs, freeing up legal to focus its time on work the business really needs.
5. Access data insights
A legal workspace brings clarity to an organization’s crystal ball – analyze data from the legal workspace and use it for capacity and resource planning for those peaks and valleys. Teams can also leverage data to generate reports demonstrating legal’s value and business impact — a spreadsheet of work completed just demonstrates busyness, not value.
A legal workspace creates the foundation for legal to become a high-performing function that is valued by the business. It offers a solution to the biggest pain points facing legal functions today, enabling the team to optimize processes and create room for higher-value work. It demonstrates where legal adds value and creates the right environment for an efficient, effective, and connected legal function. A legal workspace lawyer is one that is realizing the reasons why they chose a career in-house.