Your legal team deals with a ton of legal work from all corners of the business, so it’s imperative to have an intake process that improves service delivery and connection between legal and the business.
Legal work is also steadily increasing in complexity and volume thanks to internal and external factors. These include the constant juggling of resources, the pressures of unprecedented global events, and an unpredictable economic environment.
And at the center of all this work are legal requests requiring a process that is:
- meets the wider business where they work;
- is streamlined; and
- offers self-service options.
Read on to learn what features an effective and efficient intake process needs to benefit your legal team and the wider business. But first, why is an intake process important?
Why do you need an intake process?
Often referred to as the ‘front door to legal,’ an effective and efficient intake process improves the interaction between the business and legal, hastening the time to the required result.
With inefficient intake processes, such as sending requests by paper documents, spreadsheets, emails, and even verbal requests, it’s difficult for legal to build connections with the business and manage its work.
Disconnected and outdated workflows mean:
- there’s no oversight of incoming work, making prioritization and the allocation of tasks and resources challenging;
- there’s a greater risk of misplacing requests, overlooking important details, and missing deadlines;
- responses to issues can be reactive rather than proactive, wasting valuable time and resources; and
- with the manual entry of information into spreadsheets, there’s a lack of data. This leaves the legal department and business leaders with little insight into the origins and context behind the costs associated with legal’s work or its ROI.
Working this way becomes costly, putting pressure on time and budgets. The 2022 In-house Legal Technology Report found that 40 percent of in-house legal teams spend three or more hours a day on back and forth with the wider business to gather complete information or update the work status. This is a direct result of unstructured legal requests.
In addition to fixing the four issues above, a successful intake process gives time back to spend on higher-value, more impactful work — the kind of legal work you moved in-house to do!
Features of a successful intake process
At the core of the intake process is the delivery of clear instructions to the legal team. The most common way to do this is to provide the business with an intake form to submit when they have a legal request. The structure of these forms is around categories of legal work, for example does the request relate to a contract, an intellectual property issue, a dispute, an HR issue, or a general legal query?
To make your intake process successful and accommodate all types of legal requests, it needs four key features …
One: Build and shape the structure of legal requests
When a legal request arrives at the legal department with all the necessary details, it requires less back and forth to determine requirements, and takes less time to turn around and deliver the completed task back to the business.
The benefits of structured legal requests are:
- the ability to create and configure forms and alter them over time to suit the dynamic needs of legal and the wider business;
- the auto-population of fields to save time;
- the capture of all details upfront, reducing duplicate effort and saving valuable time;
- the automatic collection of data when intake requests are submitted, to use for visibility, optimizing workflows, reporting on ROI metrics to show the value of legal, and informing decision-making around hiring and resourcing; and
- the ability to identify low-value and high-volume requests that may be suitable for automation or where business users could self-serve and complete themselves with the right legal tech and guidance by legal.
Two: Meet the wider business where they work
When you meet the business where they are, you make it easier than ever to send requests to legal. With a flexible intake process, the wider business can submit legal requests to the legal team via their preferred channel, from the place they are already working. This can be by using integrations with Gmail or Outlook, a customer relationship management (CRM) such as Salesforce, a communications channel like Slack or Microsoft Teams, or a business portal.
Integrations that work with your legal tech, such as a legal workspace, mean the business never has to leave the tools they love to deliver a request to the legal team, and the legal team receives the request in a structured format ready to be turned into a matter or contract with just a few clicks.
Adoption increases when an intake process is flexible. Also, the wider business is more likely to involve legal, as sending through a legal request at any point in the workflow is simple.
In addition, just as the legal team wants to focus on more high-impact and strategic work, so do those in the wider business. Having options when requesting legal advice offers minimal disruption to workflows and increases the likelihood of an efficient response, giving back some time in the day to pursue other higher-value work.
Three: Streamline intake to consolidate requests
“Streamlined intake from the wider business will only occur when there is the legal tech to support it, and business users adopt it.”
Streamlining the intake process means all requests are delivered to the legal department via a tech solution, such as a legal workspace, for a consolidated view of all work the legal team manages. Legal can triage, prioritize, and assign tasks from one place, resulting in a more proactive legal function and improved service delivery. Most importantly, less time is spent wrangling email!
“Implementing technology helped us to achieve several goals, one of which being that we streamlined all of our intakes into one place so that we could keep track of who was asking for what, which then led us to be much more data-driven so that we could see where are the requests coming from.”
Four: Offer self-service and automation to save time
“Enabling the wider business to self-serve elements of its legal demands results in a win-win situation for everyone. Business users are empowered to action their own legal requests (such as the automated creation of routine contracts), track the progress in real-time, and access knowledge that answers some of their legal queries. This means the administrative side of repetitive intake tasks reduces, intake is triaged to determine priority, there’s a reduction in the volume of legal work, and the resolution times improve.”
A key benefit of self-service options for contracts and legal knowledge is that your legal team can provide a service without being directly involved with each task. This reduces the number of requests your legal team needs to action, saving time. In addition, content for a knowledge repository only needs to be created once, reducing the need to answer repetitive queries on a frequent basis.
When business users can create simple contracts such as NDAs, and manage contracts through their lifecycle, there is an increase in legal velocity and a decrease in cycle times, and they’re kept up-to-date with the status of their contracts, without having to request an update from the legal team. By having access to a legal knowledge base, business users avoid their requests sitting in legal’s intake queue by solving queries quickly and building their understanding of legal work.
How a legal workspace facilitates intake
When intake is part of your in-house legal software it relieves you of manual and repetitive tasks and gives you back time for the higher-value, strategic work you moved in-house to do.
An intake system that operates within a legal workspace — either with the use of integrations or a portal — has additional productivity gains, and of course, a powerful single source of truth. It also means you’re able to work towards becoming a more Connected Legal Function, optimizing productivity and engagement with your work, team, and the wider business.