In-House Legal Team Business Planning 2022 – 10 Key Steps for Success
31st Dec 2021 will mark 652 days since lockdown was announced.
In my working career, I have seen recessions, floods, fires, riots, attempted frauds, blackouts, credit crunch, wars and terrorist attacks – the list goes on. We live in an uncertain world, and all of these have been terrible but have been superseded by the upheaval Covid-19 has caused in the world. We are not out of the woods yet (and we will be living with the financial implications for years to come) but it does perhaps feel we have turned a corner.
Hyperscale Group works with both law firms and in-house teams and has over 25 years’ experience of the latter ranging from the biggest to the smallest teams in the world – they have been affected in different ways, but most have realised Covid-19 has increased the need to enhance systems (to help optimise hybrid working if nothing else). By contrast, law firms were initially badly affected but have gone on to enjoy some of their best financial years of all time, albeit we are hearing of a levelling off from someone can only imagine that this increased demand has been mirrored within in-house teams who are now busier than ever. One thing that is clear is that Covid-19 and remote working has flushed out some of the issues with processes, KM and tech platforms and has led to an acceleration of everything. An acceleration that no one expected. To be as good as you can be in -house teams need to continue to evolve how they do things.
As many businesses move into business planning this article attempts to set out 10 key areas for in-house teams to optimise based on the feedback from our clients. There is no team out there getting all of these right but hopefully, this will act as a helpful checklist:
1. Financial and Management Data
Winding the clock back 15 years, many in-house teams did not have great maturity in financial and management data but many have made real inroads in recent years. There is a range of systems serving this market including e-billing systems, dashboard collation systems, tender systems, individual work pitching systems and legal front door/triage systems. In relation to e-billing systems, some teams in Europe regard them as overkill but still use them for data collation and dashboards. Even those who rely on internal systems have often taken two steps: 1) agreeing on clear governance on who can instruct lawyers; 2) leveraging Power BI dashboards from Microsoft 365 to say display and consolidate data say from SAP and other systems. In short, this is a “must-have” foundational area to get right. In doing this try to structure your data and data naming conventions sets you up for success in other areas too.
2. Metrics, KPIs and Dashboards
Again 15 years ago few seemed to have made progress in this area. Some still have not but those who seem to have really benefitted. It is no secret that in-house work volumes have been increasing year on year – as have regulation and risk of penalties from regulators. Initially, the answer was to increase headcount in teams (numbers of lawyers in-house trebled in the UK over a relatively short period). Increasingly though we are now seeing push back and in-house teams are constantly having to find ways of doing more with less. In fairness, given the huge sums spent on finance and HR transformations, some in-house teams are winning the debate about having their own transformations and investment. It is not possible to do this though without having good information, metrics and dashboards. Without these how can you say prove that workloads in a particular area have doubled or that a particular business unit is consuming three times the legal resource that it should? If a team is managing things well it will analyse internal and external resource allocation against the risk profile of different areas and the impact it has on the strategic imperatives and strategy of the business. Metrics are becoming increasingly developed – both quantitative and qualitative and there are several ways of delivering dashboards, including from the systems mentioned in 1. Our work with in-house teams has established there are 8 key essential in-house dashboards but there are layers beneath this such as historical comparisons (such as those you can carry out on tools such as Xero). Increasingly we are seeing the emergence of matter management systems and dashboard systems that sit alongside the traditional document management vendors. Some MS365 documents and email systems also contain very helpful matter management dashboards. Power BI in MS365 is also enormously helpful. In short, what was once hard is now much easier and this is an essential area to invest in.
3. Infrastructure Technology
Over the years we have seen the growth of finance platforms (e.g. SAP), HR platforms (e.g. Workday), sales platforms (e.g. Salesforce) and procurement platforms (e.g. Ariba or Jagger). Whole departments and industries have grown out of these and although this can create a siloed approach many who have implemented them are very vocal about the use of these systems extending their reach within their businesses and sometimes into Legal. The price of these systems in many cases is huge too. Legal has missed out in this area as historically there has been “no platform for legal” but many would argue this has now changed. In-house teams are increasingly flexing their muscles in this area though – they are increasingly winning budgets and building out infrastructure even if by combining best of breed systems. As well as financial systems and matter management systems, primary infrastructure systems we are seeing include document and email management systems, cosec systems, digital signatures and document automation software. The latter is nowadays much more focussed on integrating with other systems such as Salesforce. Playbook software is also being taken up by some functions as well as wider no-code platforms. In short, many firms have got or are getting the basics sorted and this will be essential to cope with what is coming over the next 5 years. We have helped a lot of teams on this journey, to establish their optimal operating model and to understand their maturity and construct their investment cases.
4. Service Delivery Models
In 25 years, we have not come across an in-house team with too much resource or in-house lawyers who are not working hard enough.
Every team seems to be encountering resource and volume issues. Many departments are now recognising that on an ongoing basis they need to do more macro work distribution modelling as one size fits all models don’t work. Where are the highest risk areas and jurisdictions? What are the areas which are more likely to add to the strategic imperatives of the business? What areas of work lend themselves to self-service or education of the business? Most larger departments now partner with alternative legal services suppliers to manage more routine work and increasingly law firms are developing managed legal service offerings. Some teams have centres of excellence and/or their own offshore captives. Many are developing much clearer strategies for how they use external law firms and are really finessing their international delivery models. We have seen the growth of legal front door and triage systems albeit we are not convinced this is the panacea some claim – in a couple of cases we have seen volume contracting systems for routine contracts using tools such as blockchain. We are not saying this is the answer but thinking smartly about what work is done how and by who is becoming increasingly critical.
Data is key and there is some analysis behind any modelling – key questions include what service lines are you supporting? what should you not be doing? What happens if you map this work on an ease impact grid? Does your spend allocation mirror benefit to the business? Are your people doing the right things and are they evolving what they are individually doing year on year? (one in-house team we know found that 50% of their team’s effort was being spent on supporting less than 3% of revenue as too much focus was going into small customers). Does your delivery model mirror your risk heatmap? What would/should you not be doing anymore and what is your demand management strategy? To what extent have you optimised your key processes and who does what? One savvy department I know does all the initial document prep etc at a captive offshore centre to ensure that lawyer time is optimised – to quote their GC “in a hospital the surgeons do not greet you on the front desk, wheel you round the hospital or prep you for surgery – instead, they do surgery as they are a rare and expensive resource just like our lawyers” – if you are a global business there is an opportunity to leverage a global talent pool and lower cost centres.
Year on year business demand, issues and strategy alter and so this is a continuous process that needs to be informed (although potentially not totally led) by data.
5. Law Firm Management
The delivery of a legal service has never been more complex. We have seen several stages of maturity – some years ago in-house teams would do more routine work with the specialist work being picked up by law firms. You still see some of this, but the model has largely been flipped. In-house teams tend to lead the most strategic matters (perhaps with support from private practice on specialist support areas) with routine work often being picked up by Alternative Legal Service Providers or law companies. Any modern team is now taking this much further. They are doing the analysis referred to in point 4 above. They are working out where they can add the most value and new processes for what work is done in what way are being developed and are making sure that the way they instruct law firms reflects this.
The bar is being raised. Examples we are seeing include:
- Sophisticated dashboards showing law firm activity and spend by jurisdiction, business area, entity and more
- Matter metrics to show deviations from the norm
- Better use of Matter Management software and Power BI dashboards showing length and distribution of matters and matters on hold
- Triage and legal front door systems
- Operating protocols
- Work allocation protocols and diversity stats
- An increase in sole supplier mandates globally (one firm we know has in excess of 70)
- Use of collaboration tools such as lupl.com
- End to end process mapping, workflow, platform and reporting tools
- Procurement tactics with the segmentation of legal work with different strategies being applied to each quadrant. Applying the same model for all work segments will not deliver the best results
- Increased use of matter as opposed to and in addition to law firm panel tendering
- Challenging law firms on technology utilisation and efficiency benefit sharing in return for long term or sole contracting
- Panel portals and aggregated reporting
- Data sharing, and more
- Precedent simplification and feedback loops from playbook systems to eradicate time-consuming clauses
- internationally the delivery model is perhaps even more important (there are a number of ways of approaching this, but the balancing of risk, demand, growth and data are not always easy). There is no one single approach but the bar is being raised. In some ways, in-house teams are in better control of their law firms and data than ever before.
6. Legal Tech Vendor Management
We live in strange times. On the one hand, there are strong reasons for in-house teams to invest in tech and so legitimately budgets and investment should increase:
- Legal need a platform just like finance and HR (and the transformations to go with it). If not a business is too headcount dependent
- Increased automation
- New market tech products
- Increased contract management and innovation spend
That being said cost control is becoming increasingly hard and unpredictable. This year we have heard of vendors increasing costs by over 200% and Microsoft themselves by 20%, albeit there had been no increase from them for some years. The fundamental reasons for this are as follows:
- Cloud computing allows vendors to increase cost and without taking your data back/unravelling a time-consuming implementation it is hard to control. See here for more information on this.
- We are buying more IT and have more vendors to manage (although MS365 is providing a great opportunity for in-house teams to reduce their stack).
- Things are becoming more complex. Security aside, even tools like MS365 require new skills.
- Legal IT is now increasingly moving under the skin of legal work. Projects of this nature are much more difficult than just delivering say a document management system. There is a cost to this.
This is a really hard area where technology buyers seem to have got themselves into a difficult situation but there are some tactics to mitigate this. Given annual budget constraints, every in-house team needs a cost-containment strategy. In our experience clients increasingly want to invest in tech but that can’t be at any cost and with above inflation year on year increases. Every in-house team needs to embrace tech but also needs a strategy to contain costs.
7. Microsoft 365 Strategy
The latest stats indicate there are now in excess of 260 million users of MS365. Some have wrongly assumed that MS365 is just an online version of Office. Those looking at it properly (including many of our corporate clients) have appreciated that it has huge capability and can be of immense help to them. It has digital dictation, an e disclosure system, workflow, embedded RPA, translation services, telephony, and video services, reporting and analytics software, apps, power apps and bots. The investment in AI is huge, with projects like Viva and Cortex in the wings. MS365 really is “the friend of the in-house team” – your business probably already owns the bulk of the licences you need; your IT team will be happy that you are not adopting bespoke IT and may even want to support your use cases if you are happy to put the time into deploying it.
There are several key points here, including 1) MS365 is huge and for many of our corporate and law firm clients there are now options to retire off legacy products by leveraging the 365 stack whilst reducing cost and to build out capabilities you don’t already have; 2) There is really no limit to what you could use it for but as a business what is the right thing for you? What do you want to use and not use it for? You need to decide and perhaps redevelop your target architecture for how you run your legal department– if not people will take their own choices and it will cease to be in your control; 3) How does this affect what other products you buy? Should you favour application layer products that configure MS365? A few are emerging in different areas now; 4) What will your team need to look like? There is a rush to recruit MS365 subject matter experts in IT departments but they do not have enough resource to support you? A Power BI expert is different to a SharePoint expert though and so you may need several. Whatever you decide our prediction is that in-house teams will diminish the number of products in their tech stack – this will help manage cost and will ensure your data and documents are in one place for future AI and Data Science Analytics and MS365 skills in in-house teams will grow.
8. The Shift to Capability
We have all seen the tsunami of solutions hit the legal market in recent years. More has happened in the last 5 years than the 20 before. Some of these are great and others less so and in fairness many start-ups have tried to really get under the skin of the delivery of law which many tech vendors have not been able to do in the past. Let’s face facts though: 1) Every solution like every asset adds to risk, maintenance obligations, complexity and increases the total cost of ownership; 2) No in-house team (or law firm) in the world has the bandwidth to manage and implement multiple solutions in multiple areas; 3) IT can be personal and so everyone will have their favoured solutions.
In short, to buy everything would need every in-house team to have infinite time and money which they simply don’t have. Sensible choices need to be made – the model we have implemented which works well for this is to stand back and decide what capabilities an in-house team will need both now and in the next 5 years to run their business and serve their clients as efficiently as possible. You ignore products but focus on what your in-house team needs. In doing this we measure against the core capabilities other teams are building. You then prioritise and test against your tech stack (including the extensive capabilities in MS365) and then form your budget, cost per user-run rate and timeline. This also helps you communicate and avoids random innovation-led products appearing. Importantly you move forward more swiftly and efficiently and spend less money.
In a tsunami of solutions, there is no other choice but to work and plan in this way as if not you are likely to get swept away.
9. Contract Lifecycle Management Systems
The Association of Corporate Counsel 2021 survey of Chief Legal Officers (CLO) has recently been released and gives us some indications of what corporate clients want to buy in terms of legal tech over the next two years. The very top ranking at 67% is contract management.
This certainly accords with the Hyperscale Group experience – we have been instructed on a number of mandates in this space both globally and in the UK. For many years in-house legal teams have wanted to “show value” and contract management is key to this. It goes to both the top and bottom lines. Every penny of income and expenditure is governed by contracts. If in-house teams optimise this process the benefits they can bring to their organisations are enormous. If you have a turnover of £30bn per annum a 1% improvement equates to £300mil, which by any measure helps to demonstrate a legal function’s contribution. 1% is almost certainly very conservative when you listen to the challenges and achievements of some clients.
Notwithstanding the potential when we go into organisations, we often see a graveyard of failed contract management projects – in the last week we have heard reports of one case of litigation in relation to the same. All too frequently people don’t think they have a system or realise the number of systems they have and often these are suboptimal, with poor levels of adoption. The people or consultants who have put these systems in place have “left the premises”. In fairness, these projects can deliver huge rewards but the potential to get them wrong is high, and people don’t tend to hang around to live with their mistakes.
There are a range of stakeholders in this project (procurement, sales, finance but to mention a few) and so they are not simple projects. For legal though this is a massive opportunity to show value. Also, strategically can you imagine the commercial advantages you could bring to an organisation by understanding the data points and commercial trends for every contract with every third party, to ensure contractual matters are concluded as swiftly as possible and that you have all your contracts in a machine-readable format in a structured form ready to analyse and review and AI continues to develop. Several of our clients are now on a successful journey and their ultimate objective is to achieve a game-changing vision.
For the main issues to avoid on contract management projects please see CLM – Contract Lifecycle Management or a Career Limiting Move — Hyperscale Group Limited and CLM – Contract Lifecycle Management or a Career Limiting Move – Part Two — Hyperscale Group Limited
10. Key Operational Excellence
As well as the above there are other key components of success. All essential but perhaps not as high profile as the above. Sometimes these are a given, but we have seen a number of teams really deliver stand out performances in these areas:
- Training and Development (internal and business-facing).
Many teams are now providing structured training for their people, sometimes driven by added value commitments of their law firms. It is the in-house team driving the agenda though. Some teams are also benefiting from academy’s within their own businesses and from soft skills training from their firms. The latter is rare but is increasing. The very best in-house teams are now moving more into structured training for the business and are increasingly building online resources.
- Risk Management Strategy
This is rarer, but we are increasingly seeing in-house teams adopt risk models. For some work types, there are gateways or pre-qualifications which need to be satisfied before moving to the next stage. There is an increase in interest in RegTech products which automatically scan systems for regulatory risk.
- Fungibility/Key Competencies
For some smaller teams, we are seeing training on key work areas which everyone needs to be able to deal with for resilience. I.e. say 6 core legal competencies which are the bread and butter of a function. Beyond those, there is obviously specialism but everyone needs to be able to deal with all these key areas.
- Crisis Management Strategy
Over the years we have seen a lot. Normally such strategies followed a terrible event or near miss. Now they are becoming much more common and law firms have tried to support them with numerous dawn raids and similar apps. The more advanced teams are developing their own. From the opening comments of this article, it is clear that crises will happen though – we know clients who have had gunmen open fire in restaurants, planes crash and have their investment portfolio dive overnight. Stuff happens and we all need to have a plan – the best teams do.
- Volume Consumer led actions
This area is increasingly appearing in in-house tenders. We have seen what has happened in PPI and Emissions. PCPs and data breaches appear to be the next in line. These volume actions are not BAU – to defend them needs different actions, capabilities and approaches.
- Long Term Data Strategy
Everyone recognises that going forward understanding data will be key. Most in-house teams are not where they want to be, but they have this as a strategic objective. Microsoft and Power BI are helping, and it is hoped that Microsoft Viva and Cortex will help solve the problem in the future if all key data sources can be aggregated in a structured and meaningful way.
- Core Process Mapping and Design Thinking
Legal has not been particularly quick to adopt these techniques but in recent years we have seen an increase in adoption from law firms. We now have seen some in-house teams really adopting these areas with gusto (in some cases mapping entire business processes of which legal is a part). Again, this is not common but is on the increase.
- Legal Ops Support and Data Strategy
Many of the more advanced teams are employing people or are leveraging legal ops as service support from people like ourselves. There is a recognition that the needs of the business are changing and so in-house teams need to structure themselves differently too.
There is a huge amount happening and it is vital that in-house teams have a clear strategy, the whole team buy into it and the points in this article are dealt with. Success going forward is not just about doing (which in some way is easy) but about doing the right things. If you take the wrong steps, you simply create more issues and increase cost. Do not confuse action with progress.
This is a challenging area and we don’t know of any in-house team that excels in all of the above 10 areas. We know of many though with a clear ambition who are succeeding in many. What I would say is that there is a real opportunity here and this could be the golden age for legal when in-house teams really show their value.
We are also seeing a war for talent in legal. Some query if the optimisation of legal and legal departments is appealing enough to the young talent emerging in the legal and technology industries – to me we are looking at an $800bn plus undigitized legal market. Seldom has there been a more exciting time to be an in-house lawyer or legal technologist and your potential to make a difference is unprecedented. Getting the basics right though is key.
Hyperscale Group are a Technology, Digital and Operational Advisory and Implementation Business with over 25 years plus deep market experience. We work for In-House teams and Professional Services Firms all around the world and support them in developing and implementing their strategies. We help In-House Legal Teams make the right things happen.
Our Experience: Click here
– Our Services: Click here
– Client Testimonials: Click here
– How We Work: Click here
For more information, please contact Dereksouthall@hyperscalegroup.com