Three things in-house legal should do now to prepare for a recession

Aug 8, 2022

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Preparing for a possible recession is no easy feat. The uncertainty puts further pressure on already stretched resources, and it can be a time that truly emulates the ‘do more with less’ mantra, not only in the legal department but across the entire business.

Past experience has taught in-house legal that a recession means an uptick in workload, with an escalation in the scrutiny of contracts, increased litigation, and budget constraints, particularly where there are reductions in the use of external counsel and headcount.

So, what better time to seek productivity gains, connect with work, team, and business more efficiently, and demonstrate the value of in-house legal to the wider business?

In this article we look at three things in-house legal can start to do now to maintain performance and productivity in the face of a recession.

1 – Stop switching systems and reduce time spent on low-value, high-frequency tasks

Many legal departments use several point solutions to manage their legal functions, for example using one solution for matter management, another for contract management, and yet another for spend management. And that’s on top of reliance on email chains, spreadsheets and document management systems. This means that at least three different solutions are being used.

Yet, while it may not seem like switching between two or three solutions is too much of an inconvenience, the 2022 In-house Legal Technology Report found that 77 percent of in-house legal teams spend over one hour per day jumping between various systems in order to gain a complete view of their work.

Precious time is also lost on repetitive, lower value, higher volume tasks, taking the focus away from the high-value work that many lawyers move in-house to do. The Report found that 40 percent of respondents spend three or more hours per day searching through emails or other systems to determine matter history, or find advice from outside counsel. Specifically, 40 percent of respondents across the US and UK spend three or more hours each day on back and forth with the wider business to gather complete information or update them on the status of contracts and other work.

The result? Over 90 percent of respondents believe that time spent on manual, daily activities takes time and effort away from working on larger business goals, or affects their ability to deliver services in a timely manner.

Save time on in-house legal tasks

A legal workspace reduces the amount of time spent switching between systems, determining who’s working on what, and searching for the context behind a piece of work. It connects all your legal workflow in a single a system of record — the all-important one source of truth.

With a legal workspace, time is saved as:

  • tools for such as matter management and contract management, are connected as they exist on the same user interface;
  • there’s real time visibility across all legal work and its status;
  • full-text searching eliminates the need to search through separate emails, documents and tools for information; and
  • time-consuming and low-value tasks can be automated, such as NDA creation, contract approval processes, and the triaging of intake

“LawVu has saved us an immense amount of time due to numerous features, but the big one is the full-text search functionality … It has truly saved hours upon hour of time we would otherwise have spent trying to track work down.”
Matt Pentz — Assistant Town Attorney, Cary, NC

2 – Streamline engagement with the business

At all times, and especially in times of higher workloads like a recession, a lack of connection between in-house legal and the other departments opens up legal risk. The delayed or non-submission of legal tasks, overflowing inboxes, back and forth, duplication of effort, and time-wasting manual work all contribute to a working environment where there’s the increased possibility of miscommunication, increased cycle times, and missed deadlines.

Streamline intake for in-house legal

Streamlining engagement using a solution such as a legal workspace reduces the disconnect and lack of engagement between the legal department and other functions within the business.

A legal workspace manages intake by empowering business users to self-serve or submit structured legal requests or contracts, via their favorite tools, into the legal workspace for seamless triaging, prioritization, and assigning. It can include features such as structured form fields to gather clear instructions and reduce back and forth, and live status updates to inform the business user of the progress of their request or contract.

Software integrations are particularly beneficial in streamlining engagement. When business users work from their favorite tools, such as Outlook, Gmail, Salesforce, Slack, and Microsoft Teams, they’re more likely to be proactive about sending requests through to legal in a timely manner, and with complete details.

Streamlining intake, means there’s a more timely submitting and actioning of legal requests and the elimination of duplicate effort and manual tasks, improving business users’ experience with the legal team.

“Knowledge is power and LawVu increases our knowledge. It increases the speed and efficiency of accessing the knowledge that we have, as well as leverages the experience of team members in a more efficient and standardized manner.”
Matt Pentz — Assistant Town Attorney, Cary, NC

3 – Showcase in-house legal’s impact

During recessionary times it’s even more crucial to showcase the value legal brings to the business — yet the reasons remain the same, no matter what the economic climate.

Showing the in-house legal team’s value is important because:

  1. if the work of your legal team is going unnoticed, then so is the value and the impact you bring to the business;
  2. it provides ‘evidence’ for further resourcing and investments;
  3. it’s essential for senior leadership to justify the spend on the legal function, and calculate ROI, so the team’s outputs need to be visible;
  4. it increases the future involvement of legal across high-value strategic initiatives; and
  5. it contributes to an overall feeling of fulfillment as an in-house lawyer.

Show value of in-house legal performance with data

The only way to demonstrate the value in-house legal contributes to the business is to measure it, and for this to happen you’ll need a way to access and collate data, and then a way to analyze it.

A legal workspace does a great job of capturing all this data on the one platform, and producing reports on in-house performance, engagement with the wider business, and outside counsel performance and spend.

But you don’t have to start tomorrow with sophisticated reporting. A simple grid view of all inflight matters provides a great starting point to showcase who’s working on what and where work is coming from.

For Matt Pentz, Assistant Town Attorney, Cary, NC, having comprehensive data from LawVu’s legal workspace means he’s able to clearly demonstrate the value and role of the in-house legal team to the organization. Using LawVu’s legal workspace, he has full transparency over team metrics and the ability to report on:

  • how many matters per department come in, per month;
  • how many active matters there are at any one time;
  • how many matters there are from a specific department, within a specific time frame; and
  • the type of matters the team is dealing with.

“Now we have the data to back up where our time is being spent, the complexity of the different matters, and whether we have the right skillsets in-house.”
Rosanna Biggs — General Counsel, Linktree

 

Working as a Connected Legal Function

Having the right technology in place is not just important for empowering in-house legal to better manage the complexity and volume of work, but also for helping the legal team become a more Connected Legal Function. You can leverage technology to optimize your team’s productivity and free up time, to assist with the way legal engages with the business, and provide crucial insights for being more proactive and showcasing the impact the legal has on the business.

“It’s absolutely vital the legal team is connected to the business. You’re really supposed to be rowing in the same direction as the business, which means that your goals are inextricably wound up in the success of the business.”
Rosanna Biggs — General Counsel, Linktree

Now is the time to start preparing your in-house legal team for what’s up ahead. By using a legal workspace to save time and be more productive, streamline intake with the wider business, and show the impact and value in-house legal brings to the business, you’re well on your way to facing the future in a more connected and empowered way.

Watch and learn how the in-house legal teams of Town of Cary, NC and Linktree are using LawVu’s legal workspace to be more productive, streamline engagement, and show their impact.