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How to Help Your Legal Team Run Lean

A legal team helps protect others, including entire businesses. When it’s time to iron out contract details and go to bat in the courtroom, the team has your back. But legal departments and firms can easily get bogged down in time-intensive tasks. And all the hours spent poring over case law and perfecting legal language comes at a price. In a world where time is money, efficiency counts.

Ensuring legal teams are as lean and efficient as possible is the dream of nearly any corporation or law firm. The question is, how do you get there? Borrowing principles from tested management systems and implementing cutting-edge technology can help. Below are a few methods to increase legal teams’ effectiveness and accuracy while saving time.  

Create Streamlined Workflows for Routine Work

As in every job, legal teams will occasionally encounter something out of left field. They may need to put their heads together to find a way to tackle the problem. But legal departments and firms also deal with plenty of routine tasks. This is the work groups can bet they’ll see every day. While teams must complete these assignments, they can consume too much of their time.

Take contracts as an example. Someone has to write these while customizing the details for each agreement. Then there’s the review and revision process, which extends the time it takes to get everyone to agree to sign. Capturing signatures can be another delay legal teams must overcome, especially when emails and even physical copies are involved.

Contract management software lets you skip the hassles repetitive work like this creates. Instead of starting from scratch each time, you can set up workflows to automate the process. Automated workflows use standard contract templates while highlighting the specifics each agreement needs. Everyone knows which blanks to fill in, and documents get sent to those who need to sign them. Contracts go from conception to final signatures in far less time.

Focus on Processes With Large Delays  

Asking your legal team which processes consume most of their workdays will usually reveal where inefficiencies exist. Maybe your firm handles personal injury claims from car accidents. It’s only taking around a week to gather client information and file with insurance companies. However, negotiating those claims is resulting in unacceptable delays for the team. The average time frame from negotiation to settlement is above industry standard.

The problem you’ve identified here is that negotiation with the insurance carriers is taking too long. A closer examination might reveal your firm has more complex injury claims, which can lengthen the process. The average time to settlement for car accident victims is usually 10.7 months, but severe injuries can complicate matters. It takes longer to recover, people rack up more medical bills, and those invoices may exhaust policy coverage.

If a legal team has a lot of complex injury claims, they may need to adjust the negotiation process. Perhaps unnecessary delays occur because the firm isn’t efficiently submitting all required documents to insurance companies. As a result, claim adjusters don’t have all the information they need to make what the clients consider fair offers. Implementing tools to gather all medical bills on clients’ behalf could eliminate some of these delays.

Match Tasks to Talent   

Aligning assignments with the right people is part of optimizing your legal team’s efficiency. You don’t want your head counsel to spend every day researching case law or creating templates. These are tasks more suited for a paralegal. Whether you keep specific legal work in-house can also come into play. You may find it’s more cost-effective to outsource jobs like social media searches and surveillance.

Matching tasks to talent starts with an inventory of your team’s expertise. The group’s size will also determine how you align work assignments with roles. Naturally, smaller teams will be at increased risk for overload, thanks to numerous competing demands. Larger groups may experience more challenges with collaboration and coordination. But when responsibilities don’t clearly align with roles, all teams can run into problems with duplication and confusion.

You can borrow a project management tool called a RACI matrix to best match work with human resources. A RACI matrix divvies up responsibilities by outlining who completes specific tasks and makes key decisions. Certain roles can be responsible for producing deliverables, while others are simply accountable or consulted. A road map clears up confusion and removes inefficiencies like duplicate work.

Build In Quality Checks

What happens when your team has to backtrack their work because they discover a mistake in the final stages? It wastes time and billable hours. Errors at the end of a process also result in uncomfortable conversations and unintended consequences.

A way to avoid this is by incorporating quality checks into the group’s processes. This might mean establishing procedures for getting more than one set of eyes on a case. You could also use artificial intelligence software to scan documents for discrepancies and trigger language. An example is catching language in demands from opposing counsel. These clauses can indicate the need to respond within specific time frames and according to certain conditions.

Sometimes this language may not stand out to staff with less experience. It could also be easy to miss because it’s buried in lengthy paragraphs. Besides catching difficult-to-spot details, quality checks can raise red flags sooner rather than later. This way, your legal team can resolve issues before they have a larger impact on the group’s work.  

Running a Lean Legal Team     

You want your law firm or corporate legal department to run as efficiently as possible. Otherwise, the group will have trouble moving matters forward. These roadblocks can cost the company and those it serves. To achieve maximum efficiency, implement tools and policies that address workflow automation, delayed processes, team responsibilities, and preventable mistakes.

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