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  3. Beyond “Good Enough”: What it Means to Law Departments


Push your law department beyond “good enough”

Lawyers are under pressure across a number of fronts. They need to capably execute all assignments that cross their desks. They have to demonstrate their department’s perceived value in the overall organization.

Most of all, they want to be an essential part of their company’s strategic planning – to be among the most trusted advisors that the C-suite can rely upon. To be a consistent provider of superior value for their business. For any attorney, getting to that position means asking critical questions like: Is there more I should be doing? Are there ways I can improve? How can I do more higher-value work?

Being a corporate counsel today is a tightrope walk: you need to operate your legal department within a tightly defined budget while meeting ever-increasing demands to provide high-value services. The workload won’t stop, nor will it decrease in volume. Roughly 68 percent of legal departments reported their volume of legal work increased within the last 12 months, as per the 2019 Legal Department Operations Index. And of the 53 percent who increased their in-house workloads, only 37 percent increased the number of in-house attorneys.

Further, corporate lawyers have to be fluent in more and more fields of expertise. You can be an ace in one practice area but a complete newcomer in another. At the same time, corporate counsel face a legal landscape that is unrecognizable from even a decade ago, with new and ever-changing regulations, rapid alterations to federal and state government policies, and increasing global exposure for businesses of all sizes.

Corporate counsel must now handle more tasks that, in the past, might have been outsourced. It’s adding even more plates to an already crowded table.

Consider an attorney who can whip out employee and outsourcing contracts with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy. Then one day, he’s asked to draft a contract for the office cleaning service, something he’s never done before. Although this cleaning contract appears cut-and-dried, the attorney needs to conduct substantial research to ensure he does it properly. The lawyer gets the job done, but it takes valuable time, reducing the time he had to spend on serving as that trusted advisor, providing the business with superior value.  

Keeping the focus on superior value

An essential challenge for legal departments is to ensure that time-intensive work doesn’t come at the expense of providing superior client value. That’s a struggle that many lawyers face every day.

What defines superior value? It’s needing less time for verification and spending more hours on improving the efficiency of the legal workflow, as well as maximizing shareholder value. It’s being confident that your basics are covered so you can devote more time to client service, plus identifying and mitigating company-wide risks. It’s considering the long-term sustainability of the wider organization, not getting lost in the weeds of a particular department or function.

Having easy-to-use and reliable legal technology is key to making this happen. In your law-firm days, you could always go down the hall to that senior partner with the depth of knowledge in this area. But that senior partner is now expensive outside counsel, and there’s no one in your department with the same expertise.  

With the right legal technology, you have expert guidance at your fingertips. With the right legal technology, you can get the answers to any questions you have, while surfacing additional aspects, issues, and questions you may not have considered, especially in matters new to you.  

Even accomplished attorneys often second-guess their efforts, especially when working in new or unfamiliar areas of law. They’ll be unsure if the information they’ve found is completely up to date or if there’s a perspective they’ve missed. A comprehensive set of legal technology resources provides information you need in real time, alleviating concerns about missing any vital pieces of the puzzle.

More and more lawyers are becoming aware of the potential of legal technology. In the 2019 Legal Department Operations Index conducted by the Legal Executive Institute, law department attorneys were asked to rank their priorities. Among the highest-ranked ones: “Using technology to simplify workflow and manual processes” (a high priority for 70% of respondents) and “driving internal efficiency in the delivery of legal services/practice of law” (60%).

When you have the right legal technology, tools, and resources, you can do your best work, with confidence.

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