Episode 3 of 5

Enhance – being a data informed legal team

Reading time: 4 minutes

We’re now at the third stage of the journey. We’ve talked about how having one system of record is key to being a data-informed team, and that it’s important to choose your technology solutions wisely, taking a holistic platform approach that ties all your workflow – and data – together.

Once you’ve made the decision to adopt a legal technology solution, the next step towards the vision of being a data-informed team is to embrace data, and use it to inform your ways of working and communicating with the wider organization. This brings a new way of thinking to the business, with novel opportunities to use data-informed decisions for better business outcomes.

Creating a functional legal team

The data-informed legal team is very different to the legal team we see today.

Currently, out of necessity, all you can do with legal problems is throw them at a legal team, give them time to solve them, and wait for them to return a resolution. It’s all very manual, and it’s based on very artisanal skill sets.

However, the data-informed legal team looks very different.

It’s much more stratified by the skill sets within the team. Certainly, lawyers are part of that, but you also have the opportunity to use other roles to achieve the business outcomes. The data-informed legal team is able to analyze systems and processes, using this information to make the best decisions about who should manage the tasks.

For instance, simple, manual tasks that are traditionally served to the lawyers in the team can be completed by a paralegal or a clever intern. This relieves the time of the lawyers for higher value, more complex tasks, and is the more cost-efficient use of hire spend.

All this is possible because the legal team is using data in a system to understand its workflow and ways of working.

Data brings oversight and transparency over all the work that’s being done, and because it’s all within one system, then there’s checks and balances in real time. The work is driven by data, and exists within a workflow that’s within a system that the leadership team and other team members have oversight of.

Making data visible

Think about the other departments in your company – for example marketing. The marketing department works off principles of KPIs and OKRs, and that’s possible because everything that the marketing team does is data-driven. You can measure the number of leads that come through, and the quality of those leads, all objectively measured as data.

Yet the same is not true of the work that comes out of the legal teams. In the majority of cases, none of the data is captured, there is no feedback from the business, and there is no evidence of how long tasks take individuals or which individuals are doing them.

So this idea that you’re going to be able to set benchmarks not only as a function, but benchmarks for individuals within that function, with increasing awareness across the industry of what’s best in class, and what’s acceptable – well, it’s now all well within reach.

The approach of becoming data-informed and using the knowledge to drive business decisions is completely transforming the way legal teams work from a leadership and management perspective of both teams and the individuals within them.

Ultimately the results that chrome out of the legal team are going to be much better, much more informed, than the results we’re working with today.

Using metrics that matter

Metrics are the key to really understanding how your team functions.

I think of metrics as distinct to reporting. The way I view it is that reporting helps you to spot trends, whereas metrics show what the current state is against those trends. Metrics feel more acute to me – they are the elements you can influence.

With metrics you can see where you’re going off track, and know how to deal with the situation because you have the data to show how the issue was resolved last time it occurred.

It’s like being a pilot, sitting in the cockpit and looking at the altitude and airspeed dashboard, knowing this is exactly where you’re at, and that using the data in front of you will determine if you’re going to keep flying on track, or crash into the ground.

Keeping pace

Legal teams need metrics now, more than ever before. The pace at which business is moving creates an uphill battle for legal departments that are playing catch up with all the other departments within the business.

Legal teams need to be leaning on real-time metrics and data points that will not only help them to perform better, but will also be collected over time to build the system of record of where and when those data points occurred.

It’s the same idea once again – using metrics to improve, enhance, and expand the work of the legal team and the wider business.

Big Opportunities – Big Impact

Using data brings with it the opportunity to really change the ways the in-house legal department works. Imagine …

  • standardizing across data sets, offering many opportunities to compare and evaluate your team and the business against others in the industry, and establishing universal best practice for in-house legal.
  • benchmarking, enabling us to compare ourselves against our peers, and get some clues in terms of where we should be improving.
  • standardized KPIs for legal teams, meaning individuals within the legal department get the same sort of treatment as others in the business, and can also measure against a specific set of performance standards.
  • organizational playbooks becoming a real asset as a means of setting up functions from an operational and organizational perspective, so there’s a common approach across the industry that is modern and data-informed.

These opportunities are not just a far-fetched dream – they’re possible now with the right legal technology solution, and an adaptive attitude to re-imagining the in-house legal team.

As we get better at using data as an industry, everyone in the wider business will know the new story your legal department is telling. The legal department will function much like other departments, with no need to justify its existence or explain its ways of working.

In the first article in this series, I mentioned the importance of having one system of record, and this part of the journey is where those efforts are realized – the opportunity to revolutionize your team’s ways of working by using data.

Having your data captured means that you’re able to make use of it, both for the benefit of your legal department, and also the wider organization.

In the next article, I’ll look at how to use data to lead and support change, within your legal team and business, and across the industry.