Effective Legal Project Management (LPM) methods can make a big difference to how your legal team claws back some of their valuable time. Improving the flow and reducing the burden of tasks can only enhance performance and output.
Process improvement and automation can truly transform the way you work. Margin will ‘leak’ every time one of your team gets bogged down by time-killing details that could be dealt with in more succinct ways, with the right technologies.
It pays to gather and analyse the data on the performance of your legal team. If you can narrow down who are your star players, who needs more support, what results are produced, you can balance out time and resources for greater team performance.You’ll likely identify tasks that some or all your team are carrying out, which have little impact on driving a client’s business and which sap the time away.
Margin gains add up
Let’s first understand how tidying up processes of individuals in a team, to be more efficient, impacts on overall performance.
Take for example the approach of the Team GB coach for cycling, who achieved so much in the London Olympics in 2012. Sir David Brailsford stated: ‘If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike and then improved it by one percent, you will get a significant increase [in performance] when you put them all together.’
The coach scrutinised every single detail possible to make a small improvement, not just improving the bikes and fitness of the athletes either. He took the concept to extremes and looked at details including washing hands correctly to kill germs, the right pillow for proper sleep – the kind of little moments that you might think irrelevant and yet every tiny improvement in performance, eventually led to gold medals across the board.
It was the aggregate of marginal gains that created a large gain overall – and this strategy is now used across many industries as a brilliant way to make a difference by neatening up clumsy, inefficient processes.
Rely on software
Let’s look at instances in legal process management, where a new efficiency could benefit a client and your legal team, by automating a mundane but necessary task.
For example, if you take an hour searching for clauses in a contract that software could identify for you instantly, then you are losing out on a significant improvement in efficiency.For instance, if your client’s contract has a price renewal in it on a specific date, that crucial information can be captured by software and brought to your attention or acted on automatically. Missing that renewal would be a lost opportunity for your client’s margin.
A good contract management system interrogates data in a contract so the important clauses are identified and flagged. It coordinates strategically important commercial aspects of the contract.
There are many high volume, low value documents that might need processing – such as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), which are a drain on productive time. By automating this kind of process, you might stand to achieve significant time savings. NDAs can be put together using templates. By using software that means your client merely answers questions to generate the relevant NDA, your team can simply check NDAs and with the saved time, focus on more critical performance related legal work.
Process improvement is often about identifying the little but necessary jobs that drag your attention away from the most important ones and finding a way to speed up their execution.
Step outside and look back in
Another example of saving time is to copy the best practices and processes of others that have already achieved them, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Identify a similar (not competing) industry to the one you are in and copy what works well. Benchmark your performance against that industry. Businesses may have differences but they also have many similarities in legal and business areas.
To identify weaknesses and drains in processes, it can be beneficial to employ someone independent who is not entrenched in the company. There is a real possibility that people in an organisation can become ‘snow-blind’ to problems and the way they carry out processes. Someone who comes in from the outside of the company can often spot issues easily that can be improved on.
However you choose to tackle inefficient processes, be sure to take a step back from your position, view the business and the way the legal team operates as another entity for a second and you might just notice that some of the daily routines, and therefore results,could be improved upon for all involved.