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In-house Legal Operations: 5 Ways To Make Your Legal Team Cost-Effective in 2020

A typical day for an in-house lawyer in 2020 is quite similar to a firefighter’s one: they both have to “analyze hazardous situations quickly and effectively and take an appropriate course of action” and “perform firefighting work, including preventing, combating and extinguishing fires to protect lives, property and the environment”. The only difference is that lawyers don’t deal with literal fires.

In-house lawyers have to analyse and mitigate risks proactively, react to incoming tasks quickly and keep up with pressing deadlines. The challenge is to maintain the quality of legal advice at fast-paced businesses and build a safety net using limited resources. As legal operations are seen as cost units, in economic downturn legal teams are usually the first ones to get under the cost reduction.

Below we are offering 5 ways on how to allocate legal resources efficiently and derive greater value from your legal team’s at a time of cost reduction. 

1. Control outside counsel costs

“Gartner figures revealed a staggering 93.5% of in-house departments’ external spend goes towards law firm bills. This will hardly be news to most organisations; a recent study showed 76% of in-house legal teams cited ‘controlling outside counsel costs’ as their biggest priority”. It is easier to save costs if a legal team handles more work in-house and controls the use of external services.

For example, using smaller or mid-size niche law firms with experts in the real estate or intellectual property areas can ensure quality legal services and reduce overheads by using top-level legal advisory. Using fewer law firms also saves costs with regards to the management of external services. Having established long-term relations with a few law firms makes it easier to negotiate lower hourly fees or preferrably fixed fee arrangements.

2. Hire dedicated legal operations specialists

Bringing more legal workload in-house requires resources to be allocated efficiently and used to the fullest. For that, legal departments are hiring dedicated legal operations professionals who are responsible for optimising outdated processes, streamlining operations, and increasing efficiencies both internally within the legal team and externally with other business units across the organisation and law firms.

At first, hiring such a professional requires extra costs but later it will pay off with transparent legal operations with annual goals, objectives, key results, and a manageable legal team with specific metrics, benchmarking, and reporting. Legal Operations Specialists will also help to develop a technology roadmap and manage legal technology projects such as e-billing, contracts management system, e-signature, knowledge management, etc. While General Counsels or Head of Legal can’t afford to allocate too much time to strategic planning and costs optimisation, Legal Operations Specialists are meant to support business activities, processes, and company growth by maximising an in-house legal team’s ability to protect business transactions. 

3. Delegate routine legal work to business people

One of the ways to optimise legal operations is to develop resources and tools for the business to self-serve legal issues. Engaging an in-house counsel to prepare a simple NDA contract or review lengthy documentation costs high and values low. Standardising legal documents to get them delegated to non-lawyers provides a significant opportunity to offload low-value work and automate routine tasks.

Preparing self-service tools for other business units and business clients means:

  • developing a master template,
  • creating a shared drafting and negotiation environment,
  • approval and signing possibilities,
  • and tracking mechanism.

One-stop solutions for contract lifecycle management such as Avokaado helps delegate legal documents in a riskless and transparent way. You can automate your existing templates and implement standard decision guides where possible, assign tooltips to each clause and enable automatic formatting. Developing error-free templates helps lawyers delegate legal documents confidently and in a controlled way.

4. Use legal technology to delegate workflows and approvals

Standardisation and automation of legal documents are just starting points. Having those in place the next step would be to leverage what has been done and build up further workflow around automated templates. You could start with establishing a centralised document management system with templates and clauses and proceed to automate manual processes such as approval and signatures collection.

Contract workflow is easier to build up with a unified platform like Avokaado. Avokaado is a contract automation and document workflow platform that allows you and your team to get onboard with a few clicks, upload your own contract templates or get access to the Avokaado’s public library with templates, automate them according to your needs (create a questionnaire out of a contract) and trigger a workflow. You can execute the entire workflow from one place without a need to jump back to emails:

  • share your template for drafting,
  • comment and negotiate from one window,
  • invite team members or external parties for approving and signing the documents,
  • get visibility of your team’s workload: contracts’ statuses, hot deadlines and deals’ statistics.

Using technology helps you simplify your workflow and replace routine tasks with automated solutions. 

5. Focus on trainings and playbooks

Any innovation within your legal team and the company require working with mindsets and habits changes. Whether you optimise costs by implementing a new tool, building a self-service solution or introducing the role of Legal Operations Specialist you change the way how things worked previously. Not everyone on your team is ready for rapid changes and might not be that adjustable to change work habits instantly. For that, any innovation gets more chances to succeed if based on people’s engagement, training and success stories.

For example, while testing and onboarding people to the new tool such as contract lifecycle management and workflow automation you might find it helpful to develop contract automation guidelines and process maps such as this Avokaado Automation Playbook. 

To get even more hands-on, your legal tech partner is likely to offer you experienced advisory on project planning and introductory workshops (onboarding) to get your first successful case up and running at the platform. The business package of Avokaado covers not only initial onboarding but also:

  • a dedicated customer success manager,
  • the help of legal engineers to create the working prototypes of the templates and/or new workflow setup,
  • automation as a service for your faster kick-off. 

Building a safety net and supporting growing business operations with limited resources is possible if allocating resources efficiently within your organisation and choosing the right partners who understand your challenges and limitations. Using these five tips your legal team will be able to demonstrate value to the business and stay cost-effective without sacrificing quality.

If you need advice on switching from traditional legal work to automated solutions, including driving in-house efficiency (e.g., maintaining legal technology, ensuring communication, building internal knowledge management processes) 👉 Request a demo and we’ll show you how to start building cutting-edge solutions today.

👉 Set up your first document workflow: Get started for free now.

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