Executing legal work is the core function of corporate legal teams. The management of that work, including task-based scoping, timeline preparation, and budgeting, is essential to its completion.
In a world where legal technology is driving a fundamental shift in how legal work is done, and with teams continually asked to do more with less resources, almost 60% of corporate counsel offices are turning their attention to how data can help.
How can using data impact upon and improve how legal teams manage matters – ultimately resulting in more efficient legal service delivery to their business colleagues? To understand this, we need to understand the challenges which matter management poses.
There are some common challenges which legal teams experience with matters. At Brightflag, both the legal project management (LPM) of individual matters by lawyers and the strategic planning of how legal departments resource all the work required of them is something we work with global organizations to overcome.
The matter intake process can be difficult. Accurately scoping and setting budgets for legal work is hard when unexpected complexities commonly arise as matters progress. As experienced lawyers know, these complexities impact timelines or cause scope creep, making it difficult for corporate teams to decide how to resource specific pieces of work and agree pricing if a law firm is engaged.
LPM is an area which has been extensively covered with many well-known techniques and frameworks like gantt charts, Prince2, and Six-Sigma in use across corporate legal teams. In 2017, General Counsel across 25 organizations announced a data sharing initiative to better understand the legal market.
Whichever LPM technique you use - scope, budget, and timeline remain the three parameters of a project. If legal work’s inherent unpredictability causes significant change in these during the lifetime of a matter, project management becomes hard. Nuances in the different types of work different teams do from one organization to the next means shared insights are less valuable.
What if you could make the matter intake process more precise? Using an aggregated view of your team’s previous work to inform how you scope and budget can help.
A challenge faced by General Counsel and legal operations leaders is how to ensure the right lawyers are routinely working the right matters at the right time. They need to take a holistic view of how they resource their work between Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs), law firms, or their in-house team to close matters as quickly as possible whilst mitigating the risk each matter contains.
If a member of your team possesses experience and an in-depth knowledge of employment law the most optimal use of their time is working employment matters. Similarly, a reputation for expertise in specific areas precede certain law firms. Would you rather have one of those law firms doing employment work for you instead of an area they have niche expertise in – especially if that means your in-house employment expert is doing something else?
However, preparing and implementing a resourcing plan is difficult without visibility of which matters your corporate lawyers or law firms are actively working and visibility of where your legal spend is going.
Visibility, as alluded to above, can be a challenge. Specifically, getting an up to date view of what work has been completed on a matter is a paint point. It takes time for a lawyer to log all the work completed. Time which could be better spent executing legal work.
What if the data contained in your outside counsel invoices could be used to automatically update the tasks completed on a matter? This is now possible, freeing up time for your corporate lawyers and giving your team a handle on the status of individual matters.
Implementing a data feedback loop as part of how you manage matters can help inform how you resource and intake future matters to overcome the challenges outlined above. At its core, establishing a loop means utilizing the reservoir of data which is contained in your outside counsel invoices.
For an existing matter which has progressed past the intake stage your team will have decided how to resource the work, perhaps appointed a law firm, and agreed the scope and pricing.
As this matter progresses your law firm will start to submit invoices. The line item descriptions contain details of the individual tasks carried out by your law firm and at what hourly rate. New language analysis technology can read these line item descriptions and use the data contained in them to update the matter the invoice was assigned to.
As more and more invoices are submitted these data points build up a clear picture of:
This addresses the problem of visibility. There’s no need for manually updating the matter with the work your law firm has done. The data is already logged once the invoice is approved, freeing up time for your corporate lawyers and giving the full team the most up to date view of the matter.
As this process is repeated for multiple matters in the same practice area you can combine the data points from individual matters to build a picture of what a typical piece of legal work should look like, with each of the phases from start to finish.
Corporate legal teams are now utilizing these insights by building reports which are bespoke to their organization to gain a deeper understanding of their matters.
For example, you can see what the due diligence phase looks like in M&A transactions. How much did you spend on it with various law firms, how long did it take, what were the individual component tasks? Similarly for phases in other practice areas, such as pleadings in litigation, you now have a significant amount of quantitative information about how this phase should transpire – as well as those before and after it.
Once you’ve found these insights, your team is now significantly more informed for the next batch of matters they need to incept. They’ll know how to differentiate between budgets for different matter types. Scoping is easier after seeing a full spectrum of activities which were carried out in earlier pieces of legal work, even when scope creep occured due to unexpected work cropping up.
With your intake more robust your LPM will run smoother. Scopes will be more accurate and this in turn has a positive impact on your budget and pricing agreements with outside counsel. Armed with deep understanding of matter lifecycles and the best way to spend on outside counsel your team’s resourcing can be more strategic. Ultimately this means more efficient delivery of legal work – all thanks to data.
In order to implement the data feedback loop and improve how you manage matters, your team needs a fit for purpose system which combines matter management, e-billing, and reporting and is powered by natural language technology to surface all of the insights your data can provide.
Sarah Scales, our Head of Product at Brightflag, recorded an on-demand webinar which shows how legal teams are implementing the data feedback loop to improve their matter management process. Download your copy below.