The concept of collecting legal team data is capturing more attention from in-house counsel – deservedly so, given the benefits it can yield. But getting started with data and incorporating it into your legal operations can be daunting for a legal department accustomed to manual reporting or myriad spreadsheets.
Here are four low-fuss, high-impact steps you can take to bring data intelligence to your department:
1. Engagement of your legal team
Before you start collecting data, understand how it can benefit you and your team. Data collection can assist with:
- Demonstrating the value of a legal function to its business;
- Allocating resources;
- Prioritizing work;
- Identifying work that should be automated, eliminated or managed by internal clients
- Identifying the need for Continuing Legal Education or training on repeat issues, along with
resource allocation in specific or specialized areas of law;
- Managing the budget and allocating costs to business units; and
- Handling external firms, including fees, deadlines and quality parameters.
The entire legal team should discuss their data goals and objectives (and hopes and fears). The benefits of data analysis are not just for a general counsel or chief legal officer; indeed, a smart data program will empower all team members, build career development opportunities and alleviate workload stress.
Having a team-oriented data mindset will ensure that all team members work together to sharpen quality and efficiency through streamlined processes, identify issues and deliver powerful outcomes for the business.
2. Collecting data
Even when the power of data is well understood, it’s difficult to implement a data collection program in a team already running hard to meet internal client deadlines and navigate an ever-expanding regulatory environment.
Focus on achieving immediate and impactful results with small, consistent measurements. Collecting just a few simple metrics will help you understand your legal function.
These should include:
- Who needs the work
- Who is doing the work
- What is being done
- When it is required
- Why it is important
Two secrets to successful data collection:
- Keep it very simple. Trying to collect too much information will lead to inconsistency and noncompliance.
- Keep data collection very quick. Twenty to thirty seconds for each matter should be sufficient. Specifically tailored practice management tools for in-house teams exist and can make data collection painless.
3. Automation and analysis.
Once the data is collected, the world is your oyster.
Data collected can easily be set up to generate automated dashboards and reports to communicate the metrics relevant to your data collection goals – whether in Excel spreadsheets or software specifically designed for the task. Manually arranging your own charts and reports is not necessary and not where you should devote your time.
Once visualization is automated, it’s time to get to know your data. Dig in. You will easily spot the lumps and bumps, the bottlenecks, business unit or work type demands and resource allocation issues, all of which are likely to confirm what you already know instinctively or anecdotally….but now have the power of data behind them. There may even be a few surprises in the mix!
4. Powerful, data-driven discussions.
With data in hand, you can now have productive, evidence-based discussions with your business about budgets, cost allocation and resourcing needs; with your outside law firms about their delivery; and with your team about how workloads can be managed.
These discussions will flow naturally with data in hand and automated reports that provide you with a visual depiction of the issues and/or opportunities within your legal function.
The “Happy Ever After” Story
By capturing small data in a fast and painless manner, and by automating data analysis, it will be possible to observe patterns in your team’s legal work and changes in outcomes over time. This will empower you to apply a systematic, streamlined approach that delivers long-term benefits to team professional satisfaction and quality deliverables.
A team that works this way will be highly valued and respected by its business for its strategic alignment and innovation, shifting the focus on the legal operations team from “cost savings” to “value creation” – and from being mere facilitators to leaders who can unlock greater value for the company.
Jodie Baker is the Founder and CEO of Xakia Technologies, an automated data capture and matter management software built for in-house corporate legal teams.
Note: Portions of this article previously appeared in The Australian Corporate Lawyer.