10 Ways to Run your In-House Legal Team Like a Business [Guide]

Welcome to Q2 of 2019! Whether you’re a General Counsel or legal operations specialist, bringing home optimal results this quarter is probably you and your legal department’s biggest goal right now.

The good news is, there are many ways to improve efficiencies with your team members and vendors, and one of them is through adopting a business mind-set. Based on the foundations of a robust business, we’ve pulled together a list of ways to shift your legal team strategy in line with your organisation’s objectives. Below is a preview of insights you’ll gain by downloading this in-depth guide:

Manage your department’s workload

As with any successful business, you can’t determine how to allocate resources, evaluate performance and establish success unless the complete picture of how your department works is captured and understood. This may seem like an easy task, but without a systematic way to track internal projects and what outside Counsel is working on, a legal department—big or small—can lose track of all the legal work being done. Once you know what work is being done and by whom, it will enable you to start prioritising projects and allocate resources accordingly to improve efficiencies within your workforce.

Know your spending and use budgets

The most basic question a stakeholder can ask any successful business is “What is your spend?” Whether it’s the last fiscal year, this fiscal year to date or this quarter, every business should know the answer to this question. However, ask a legal department and the most common answer you will hear is “I have no idea.” The next basic question is “How does this spend compare to expectations?” To determine this, a legal department should have a budget or way to measure expected spending. There are many ways to budget for legal matters: on a per matter basis, per team generating the work, per practice group or even on a department-wide level. Regardless of which type of budget is used, a legal business cannot determine whether it’s received good value for the money spent if there is no expectation of what should be spent in a given time-frame.

Understand what success means for your stakeholders

To achieve success, a legal department must firstly determine who their stakeholders are, i.e. who determines success. In a legal department, the CFO, CEO or Board of Directors may all be stakeholders who in the past may have only been interested in the successful-outcome rate of matters, large matters whose costs had skyrocketed or the status of a major litigation case. Increasingly however, legal departments are being asked to measure success not only by those standards, but also by traditional business standards, such as: “What is the total spend this year compared to last year, and if it’s more, then why?”; “Are you above or below the department’s projected budget?”; “How is the department reducing costs and increasing efficiency?”; and “What legal trends are you seeing in our legal work and how should we respond?” Once it’s understood how success is being measured by stakeholders, then the legal department can go about tracking those metrics.

Legal departments who adopt the best practices successful businesses tend to demonstrate, will find themselves better able to give counsel to their clients. In addition, they’ll be seen as trusted advisers when important decisions are being made within a company.

Related guide: Do you advise a company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX)? Don’t miss out on the Practical Law Team’s in-depth, side-by-side comparison of the new ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations.

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