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ACC Europe Virtual Roundtable on Improving Operational Efficiency

Legal operations professionals from Barclays, Visa, PVH Europe BV, and BT joined ACC and Consilio for the second in a series of virtual roundtables on European law department operations in May.

Panelists addressed improving the efficacy and efficiency of the corporate law department. Across the board, they recommended assessing law department maturity as a starting point, including comparing efforts and progress against the ACC Maturity Model. Per the speakers, here are differentiators in progress:

  • Early stage law departments do not yet have metrics to track and have just started to think about their operations.
  • Intermediate departments have begun their strategies, goals, and desired outcomes, and have started to collect data.
  • Advanced departments have data to inform their reports on metrics and goals. They now have access to formalized reports and dashboards that can be shared with business leaders.

Getting started

For law departments in the early stage, panelists suggested locating an accessible starting point. Leonie van Gulik, senior operations manager at PVH Europe BV, said that in her experience building a legal operations program, one success was setting five short-term and five long-term goals.

Stuck on which to choose? She recommended pain points or areas your colleagues will notice. What will improve their happiness? She also noted that e-billing, matter management, and e-signing are three good places to start.

The panelists echoed van Gulik’s idea of focusing on the team and how legal operations changes impact their work. Ben Eason, managing director - head of legal transformation at Barclays, said it’s important that the change happens to the team’s benefit.

Nothing should happen “to them.” Instead, it must happen “with them.” This will help to build change into the culture and to ensure champions across the law department.

The goal is to create trusted partnerships across legal operations, legal transformation, lawyers, and paralegals. David Griffin, head of legal and governance systems and change at BT, reminded participants to focus on the user experience of implementing change in order to ensure a strong community of stakeholders.

Listeners were able to weigh in on where their departments fell on the maturity index, from 1 (least mature) to 5 (most mature):

1 (least mature): 32 percent
2: 36 percent
3: 20 percent
4: 8 percent
5 (most mature): 4 percent

Pie chart showing legal department maturity.

Later, virtual roundtable attendees answered whether they track the effectiveness and efficiency of their departments. More than three-in-four (77 percent) said no, while 23 percent said yes.

Pie chart showing legal department efficacy.

Capturing data

Emma Jackson, senior lawyer at Visa, said that the driving factor for her law department’s operational journey is responding to the needs of the business. The department found that the business team had a host of different questions, but there were never enough lawyers to answer them.

To remedy this, the Visa legal team built a self-service portal, which includes FAQs, sample contracts, and more. Jackson estimated that at least 20 percent of quick (but distracting and time-consuming due to volume) questions to legal have been eliminated.

The portal also serves as the team’s legal intake process for more complex queries and service requests, allowing lawyers to triage and assign matters. Best of all, the system yields data on how many requests were made and when they were completed, providing insights into how lawyers spend their time and which areas need more legal staff.

Capturing and analyzing data was an ongoing theme among the panelists. Eason stressed that data does not need to be perfect to drive actions and decisions. Look at the obvious data first to see where there are large chunks of spend, inconsistencies, duplicated efforts, or silos. “Things jump off the page to you very quickly,” he said. Driving dialogues with data ensures transparency and more strategic decisions, Eason explained.

Griffin also stressed the importance of capturing data related to spending and outside counsel engagement. That way, the department knows if the engagement is scoped properly, on time, and on track to fit within the budget.

User experience

In addition to ensuring that the legal team’s experience with new tools and technology is smooth, the department needs to consider the response from other business units. For example, the Visa legal team went to great lengths to make sure its intake form was not “too onerous,” which would cause some to bypass legal entirely. The law department also compared notes with counterparts in IT and HR. Each department uses an intake form/process, and they worked together to make sure their intake processes aligned.

Because the department wanted to continue to offer strong customer service, Jackson said that they ensured that the human element did not disappear. Each lawyer on the team was “buddied up” with a different part of the business.

That way, if they have a “big, burning question,” the business leader can pick up the phone to his or her “buddy lawyer” rather than go through the intake form process. If the query is more complicated than can be answered over the phone quickly, the buddy lawyer can refer the business unit to the intake form.

Client satisfaction

When it comes to ensuring clients are happy with the services legal provides, Griffin said that BT takes a page from its business playbook. The company is very focused on customer feedback for its telecommunications services. The law department takes that to heart for internal clients, seeking their satisfaction ratings.

At Visa, Jackson noted that the department sends out a customer satisfaction survey to the top 20 percent of users of the legal engagement form twice a year. This allows them to gauge satisfaction on the advice given and the portal itself. Selecting this group means that the feedback comes from those who are both most affected by and most familiar with the processes.

Technology

At the end of the virtual roundtable, the conversation turned to legal technology. Griffin recommended ensuring that the law department has a good, foundational layer before getting “distracted by some of the more exotic tools that are out on the market.”

Eason agreed, saying that today, legal technology can be one of two things: a solution or a massive distraction. All the panelists expected that as law departments build their foundational legal operations layers, technology will be the next building block to keep the evolution moving forward.

While they recommended putting the basics first, they said that as law departments move from less to more advanced, the opportunities to bring in cutting-edge technology become more relevant. First, put the technology in place to see where spend and time are going, then look at building efficiency there. Find technology that allows you to ask the right questions. Once that is successfully implemented, then you can consider the next stages of your evolution.

At this stage, the law department should consider its roadmap and plot in where the more useful and innovative technology can contribute. It is at this stage, Eason said, that departments can begin to look at “AI and innovation with any real gusto.” A good first step for this stage is to see where other departments spend their operational dollars.

The panelists shared that in their more mature departments, they are starting to see gains from AI, especially in the contracts space. It is “changing the dialogue.” Griffin said, noting that it’s an “exciting space” to be in for a law department operations leader.

Stay tuned

Virtual roundtables in July, September, and November are next up, with an in-person event scheduled for October for Frankfurt. Sign up today.

About the Author

Lee Betancourt is the senior director of communications and public relations at the Association of Corporate Counsel.


The information in any resource collected in this virtual library should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion on specific facts and should not be considered representative of the views of its authors, its sponsors, and/or ACC. These resources are not intended as a definitive statement on the subject addressed. Rather, they are intended to serve as a tool providing practical advice and references for the busy in-house practitioner and other readers.