How You Can Make Your Legal Team More Efficient

Large and small companies understand that a stellar legal team is worth the cost. Here are a few ways to make your legal team more efficient.

The legal team in an organization can sometimes seem to be an expensive department to manage.

However, large and even some small companies realize that a stellar legal team is worth the cost. They make sure all the contracts and forms used are comprehensive and keep the firm’s best interests in mind.

Legal teams dot the I’s and cross the T’s for other departments in the organization so as to prevent any issues later. They draft the fine print to account for any and all contingencies. And they review fine print received from other organizations to make sure their colleagues aren’t signing anything they could regret later.

So legal teams are vital…but that doesn’t make them any less pricey.

How can you ensure you’re making the most of this precious company resource? Here are a few suggestions for making your legal team more efficient.

1. Utilize more technology.

By digitizing nearly all the paperwork of previous decades, companies can save time, money, and the planet.

Bulky file cabinets can be conveniently replaced with cloud storage. Huge stacks of papers that needed to be signed can now be completed quickly with electronic signatures.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, legal research has also become easier.

It is quicker to search for a particular case or term and review legal riders and addendums digitally than it ever was on paper. With AI-assisted technology, doing financial discovery and digging up case information is much faster and more accurate.

Many legal teams use contract management software that synchronizes the various steps that each document goes through. This technology is sophisticated enough to be customized to your firm’s unique needs.

These platforms are also user-friendly, so employees do not need to undergo extensive training. Automation lets your legal team focus on higher-level matters, whether that’s structuring a new deal or defending the company against an antitrust lawsuit.

2. Hire legal operations specialists.

A 2021 Association of Corporate Counsel survey reported that 61% of legal departments have hired one or more legal operations professionals.

These trained individuals bring a strategic business approach to the running of an in-house legal team. A legal operations specialist does not require a law degree.

Rather, they handle various aspects of a legal department’s operations so the attorneys can focus on providing actual legal advice. Their responsibilities could include strategic planning, budgeting, forecasting, and optimizing workflows — and that’s just for starters.

Legal operations specialists can vet and manage outside vendors, whether that’s a cloud storage provider or a local cleaning service. They can identify software that facilitates legal work, evaluate competing vendors, and manage implementation of the chosen solution.

In these ways and more, they enable a firm’s in-house attorneys to focus more efficiently and effectively on their core responsibilities.

3. Outsource some work to alternative legal service providers.

Some firms conduct a cost-benefit analysis and find they can save money by engaging alternative legal service providers.

Such providers often focus on the routine work of the legal world — litigation document review, contract management, and the like. By subcontracting some tasks to ALSP firms, lawyers can focus more on areas where they have more expertise. This brings down overall costs and enables them to focus on more important tasks.

Time was, an in-house legal team might engage outside counsel if they needed help with a specialized area of law or a heavy workload. Today, ALSPs provide a more flexible, cost-effective alternative for such legal support.

Unlike traditional law firms, ALSPs don’t have a rigid hierarchy that dictates who does — and bills for — different types of work.

You won’t pay extra because a partner reviewed your documents; in fact you won’t have to worry about billable hours at all. ALSPs use a flat-rate fee structure, so when you outsource work to them, you won’t get any nasty billing surprises.

4. Create a legal playbook.

Of course, not all work can be outsourced, so you’ll want to optimize the hiring you still need to do.

Many legal departments have adopted processes that make it easier to onboard new hires, junior attorneys, and vendors. One such solution is to create a thorough legal playbook. Key stakeholders provide the information and then update as needed.

Users love it because it drastically reduces the amount of time and effort it takes to research something. Creators love it because they don’t have to repeat themselves each time they hire a new employee. Some firms refer to legal playbooks as training manuals.

Your team can organize them according to different subject tabs. Entries have attorney bylines so contributors are very conscious of sharing relevant legal information and not just fluff.

While they may have originated in paper form, today’s legal playbooks are an online resource. The biggest advantage of a digital playbook are the hyperlinks, which enable readers to easily learn more.

The Hallmarks of Efficiency

Once legal teams adopt best practices such as those outlined above, they become more efficient on many levels.

The litmus test for efficient legal teams is whether they have processes that are streamlined and tech-enabled. Such teams also centralize information in a standard format, so that stakeholders are not left scrambling for answers. They partner with internal and outside specialists to conduct operations in the most time- and cost-effective manner.

In all these ways, they take best advantage of their primary asset: legal talent.

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