7 Essentials for Legal Operations Optimization, Part Two
As we pointed out in Part One of this pair of posts, Legal Operations optimization is now a mandate for corporate legal departments. They’re being measured against Key Performance Indicators, just like other business units. So it behooves them to maximize the efficiency and productivity of Legal Ops.
We covered three essential areas where Legal Operations optimization can deliver maximum value to an enterprise, and detailed how technology can be part of that solution. So, without further drumroll, here are four more vital areas where Legal Ops leaders ought to be driving optimization.
Build up a single source of truth with quick access to historical knowledge and law firm communications
With the constant increase in the types of information assets held across an organization – from legal filings, Word docs, PDFs, video, spreadsheets, email and more – the control, management and governance of these assets has become an ever-increasing challenge.
Finding the right solutions to solve or minimize these challenges and to make the most of related opportunities is a goal many organizations are pursuing.
So, in a world of constantly growing digital footprints, where can such a solution start? Understanding what data assets are held poses the first hurdle. Many different channels capture and process different types of information into different repositories, which leads to data duplication.
To more effectively manage the process of maintaining all this information and ensuring it’s consistent, the simplest solution is to hold all of the data in a single repository. This repository can then act as a hub for an organization’s data, creating efficiencies in storage, minimizing duplication and offering a simpler structure for maintaining and enforcing security around data.
Centrally storing digitized assets will pay multiple dividends. One among many? Reducing the need to store all that paper. According to Iron Mountain, organizations spend 5% of their budgets on filing. It costs $25,000 in labor and materials to fill a four-drawer file cabinet and another $2,000 just to maintain it every year.
Understanding your data: After collating and structuring the data, the next hurdle is understanding exactly what is held and whether it’s held correctly. Regulations dictate that data should not be held for too long, that data should be removed or alternatively held for legal reasons, and never removed while required. The single repository should provide mechanisms for the correct retention of data and having the data in a structured repository simplifies the process of managing this.
However, this is only effective if you know what data is held. Traditionally, document management systems are very good at giving an organization an understanding of what data is present, but aren’t as good at analyzing gaps in the data. Do you have up-to-date documents? Do you have the necessary data to perform a process? Do you have sufficient documents where a process calls for multiple documents of a particular type?
Here’s where it’s important to adopt a system that can provide this level of information around held data, allowing individual processes to run more effectively and giving a high-level compliance overview of how data is managed in the organization.
What does a good content management solution/single source of truth look like?
To achieve a single source of truth, you need an effective content management solution. Content management is the process for collection, retrieval, delivery, governance and overall management of any type of information in any format. And effective content management for a legal department includes:
- Centralized storage and tracking for files, matter and case information.
- Out-of-the-box capability to associate documents with individual matters or matter types.
- Stringent security measures; only the people assigned to the matters should have access to view, access or copy certain documents.
- Full-text searching for easy location and retrieval of content.
- Version control so you only see the right version at the right time.
- Support for all document and format types, including video and audio.
- The ability to store templates for standard forms, letters and reports.
- Individual user empowerment to easily find and consume content without thinking about where to look.
- The ability to easily package various documents related to a matter or invoice.
Provide an easy way to relate/attach documents and e-mails back to the matter
Corporate information is crucial to the efficient operation and even survival of the business. Instant access for customer service, disclosure, audit or regulatory compliance purposes is vital.
The problem is that critical business information might be contained within a huge range of silos such as business applications, spreadsheets, word documents, scanned documents, reports, photographs, statements and text files, etc. We focused on the “single source of truth” content challenge in the last section, but here we need to expand our scope to focus on how to maintain that single source of truth in communications.
The problem: Data gets siloed and sequestered
So often today, critical business data gets created, shared and stored in emails and email attachments, or are only stored in the end user’s device. When those communications are siloed on the desktop PCs or other digital devices of individual attorneys or staff, critical information can become inaccessible to the larger team.
IDC found that professionals using paper-based workflows spend up to 35-50% of their time searching for information because of the lack of a centralized index or asset repository. Missing or hard-to-locate information is inefficient and costly, even more so since businesses are legally obliged to secure and protect personal information. Failing to do so can lead to regulatory penalties.
The business challenge?
- To securely capture, store and manage all types of corporate information assets, irrespective of source, into a central secure digital repository.
- Provide instant search and retrieval capabilities coupled with audit trails (who viewed what/when etc.).
- Implement and enforce audit trails and retention policies to meet internal, industry, legal and compliance requirements.
Time is valuable to legal professionals. And user adoption is the key to maximizing the return on any investment in legal technology. In order to ensure that emails and documents are consistently stored and related to matters within the single source of truth for legal, there must be integration with the systems your attorneys use the most, most commonly Microsoft Outlook® and Microsoft Office®.
With this type of integration, your attorneys will be able to simply drag-and-drop items from their inboxes to the legal matter within your legal management solution. This streamlines and accelerates workflows, while avoiding duplication of content,
Just as important as capturing e-mail content and attached documents are the metadata within that e-mail. Who did it come from? When was it sent? Whom was copied on it? And so forth. This information can be as important as the topic being discussed. To use it effectively, users should be able to easily search up matters from Outlook to ensure items are being saved from the right source.
The more administrative tasks that can be completed using the systems your attorneys are accustomed to using, the better. MS Office integration can be just as important as other forms of document management and archiving, by making it easier than ever for users to access and control files and tasks while leveraging existing software skills.
Reduce the amount of time generating and managing legal documents by 20% with MS Office® integration.
The average end user of legal technology can lose between 30 and 60 minutes per week switching between disparate applications, navigating screens, and re-inputting information. Add up all the time spent doing so by your entire legal staff over a year, and you’ll see you’re making a significant investment in low-value work. Office Suite integration reduces the time lost, and increases the operational efficiency of the department.
Improve predictability of the department’s legal spend budget/forecast
Many legal teams are under pressure to control spend and maintain work quality even as the business grows. To do so, teams need to gain visibility into the entire legal department, and drive more high-value work from attorney staff.
If your organization outsources any work to outside counsel firms, then spend management is an absolute must-have if you want to control costs, understand the true value being delivered by each law firm, and have visibility into the trade-offs between cost and outcomes. Not to mention have power over and foresight into budgeting and legal spend.
What is spend management?
In essence, a good spend management software product provides a streamlined, easy-to-view portal that enables corporate legal departments to have complete oversight of their outside counsel spend – and other legal costs.
The other essential element of spend and vendor management? E-billing. Just how much ROI can e-billing provide? Companies with a strong e-billing solution in place realize a 5-10% reduction in legal spend over a three-year period.
What are the benefits of spend management? Just a few examples:
- Reduce and control your legal spend with outside counsel.
- Track and report matter budgets by time period or matter phase.
- Automatically require firms to set budgets, timekeeper profiles and rates information before starting work, and track your agreements within your single source of truth
- Track accruals and actuals, while each necessary person receives milestone notifications to stay on target.
- Maintain an automatic audit trail of all modifications to bills, including approvals, reviews, adjustments, and rejections
- Optimize firm and timekeeper selection through visibility and reporting that enables assessments over time.
Accelerate and add efficiency to contract approvals, NDAs, and other processes
Contract approval processes are a notorious resource drain for legal teams everywhere. But repetitive Legal Operations processes of all kinds are the real culprit.
For instance, If an employee paid $50/hour takes half an hour to write each of five notifications per workday, reminding others to review a contact, it adds up to $6,000 a year you’re paying just one worker for repetitive work. And you may have more than one person doing it, right?
Common tasks such as NDA processing are an example where attorneys themselves are forced to review and approve documents that can be easily digitized as part of an automated submission and approvals routing workflow, freeing lawyers for more profitable work.
Document handling is another repetitive manual task that costs legal teams significant amounts of time and money. IDC says workers waste 21% of their time searching for lost documents or handling other document-related issues.
Happily, legal teams now have access to Cloud-based workflow automation solutions that can digitally transform many paperbound or manual tasks. Automated self-service workflows (as for an NDA) can be up to 7 times faster and 15 times more efficient than a manual process, with 100% compliance and up to 400% ROI.
Some areas of Legal Ops addressable with workflow automation include:
- Standardized/self-guiding NDAs (or other forms, such as service requests) can be accessed by users any time, any location, and routed automatically, reducing costly internal review by legal personnel.
- More complex processes, such as contract development and life cycles, can be automated and customized for peak performance.
- Enterprises can now manage processes at scale, even across global networks.
- Automation eliminates errors and delays, for a user experience that’s faster and more reliable.
- Workflows even outside of the legal department can be designed to embed legal and compliance best practices in other departments.
- Each workflow can be automatically backed up to a secure Cloud archive, easily accessible for audit, governance and compliance purposes.
- E-signature integration standardizes secure approvals.
Some of the ROI delivered by legal workflow automation?
- E-Signature integration: One typical mid-size corporate legal team is saving $70,000 a week by streamlining its approval processes using e-signature capabilities, for $3.6 MM a year in savings.
- Materials savings: The costs of using paper can be 13 to 31 times the price of buying the paper in the first place, yet a single average U.S. office worker uses 10,000 sheets a year.
- Security & archiving: Because it’s easy (and economical) to back up documents to secure, Cloud-based servers, compliance tracking and disaster recovery is far easier than if you’re using using physical archiving.
- Less reliance on IT: The best legal workflow automation solutions are SaaS products that offer plug-and-play ease of adoption and integration with existing systems. This vastly reduces the need and costs for IT involvement and removes the expense of dedicated on-premise hardware.
- Talent optimization: One study found that by preparing just three documents a week manually, a senior attorney could waste $1,350 per month in lost billable time versus using automation.
- Morale & retention: Replacing drudgery with efficiency helps people focus on more important tasks and feel more fulfilled in their work. It’s one reason why Adobe research found 81% of U.S. office workers ranked up-to-date tech as being a key factor in keeping them happy on the job.
Get the complete list in one free download
To get the entire list from these two blog posts in a single convenient guide, use this link to download a free copy of 7 Essentials for Optimizing Your Legal Operations. Or click on the thumbnail at right.
There are even more guides and white papers about Legal Ops optimization and the multiplying impacts of technology on Legal and GRC in our Resource Hub, as well.