Using Workflow Automation for Onboarding Outside Counsel
Using Workflow Automation for Onboarding Outside Counsel

Using Workflow Automation for Onboarding Outside Counsel

Michael Semer |

For legal operations departments, GCs and CLOs alike, there are a few baseline truths with regard to retaining outside counsel:

  1. You need them. Sometimes, you need a lot of them.
  2. It’s your job to onboard and manage them.
  3. A+B can get big, complicated and expensive in a hurry.

Mid-sized enterprises may have multiple outside law firms employed; a multinational may have literally hundreds around the globe. To cope with the demands of efficiently managing them, legal departments are setting out broader outside counsel guidelines for everything from  billing and expenses to cybersecurity, IT integration, and what constitutes conflict of interest.

Some outside firms may find these new mandates problematic, but corporate legal departments are caught in a bind: They’re faced with bigger legal workloads than ever, but are under pressure to control costs at nearly every turn. Closer management of every facet of the legal ecosystem is one solution, and outside counsel are part of that environment.

Technology factors in as a way of streamlining and rationalizing the communications and collaboration processes involved in running multiple outside counsel; as Casey Flaherty of 3 Geeks & A Law Blog once noted, the more parties you have communicating at once, the more difficult it is to coordinate them all:

trying to get stuff done without legal workflow automation

What’s one way of increasing efficiency, collaboration and governance when it comes to outside counsel? By putting legal workflow automation to work.

The Benefits of Automating Onboarding

Legal workflow automation can be transformational when it comes to generating efficiencies and ROI in working with external legal resources. That’s an overused work, but it’s perfectly fitting in this case.  One specific way it can help? By automating the processes involved with evaluating and onboarding outside counsel.

The ramp-up costs for bringing an outside legal resource into the fold can be substantial, and they’re only worsened if a legal operations department is relying on outmoded processes and practices.

Automating the various processes involved provides nearly immediate and far-reaching benefits:

  • Removing manual, paper-bound methods accelerates the entire process, resulting in time and cost savings.
  • The need for review and gatekeeping by internal counsel is reduced, also cutting costs.
  • Human errors are reduced or eliminated, and documents and other assets aren’t lost or mislaid.
  • Real-time reporting and tracking of every workflow takes place in a centralized environment, driving superior governance.
  • Workflows can be automatically archived for later audits and compliance review.
  • Analytics are extendable across all workflows and processes, so onboarding processes can be continually optimized.

Applicable to Every Element of Onboarding

Some of the particular onboarding tasks that legal workflow automation can take on?

  • Forms and document submission gets smarter, as online forms walk would-be external resources through an error-free process of providing complete information for vetting.
  • Creating counsel retention agreements can be automated with online forms, too, as users enter pertinent information about prospective outside counsel in either a request for retention agreement form or by directly drafting a retention agreement, which A) be built using approved language and clauses, and B) can be routed for timely review.
  • Interview schedules with outside counsel  can be fully automated, integrated with other processes; notifications and alerts ensure participation by gatekeepers and stakeholders.  
  • LWFA can be applied to fee negotiation and billing processes, and integrated with e-billing platforms.
  • Other onboarding workflows involving IT, data security, training/orientation/briefing and initial project collaborations can be automated and triggered by completion of other processes or by approvals.

What’s particularly inspiring? These workflows are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. With a flexible, easy-to-use and customize SaaS platform like TAP, the limits on how legal workflow automation can expedite outside counsel onboarding are practically non-existent.

Users are constantly surprising us by coming up with ever-more-innovative ways to apply LWFA to nearly every legal operations process, helping wrangle challenges – like effectively managing an entire flotilla of outside counsel – that might have once seemed impossible.