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The Agile Legal Function

Agile legal function

Once upon a time, organisations were more like a collection of static, siloed departments working around each other day-to-day. Their overall goals and objectives were typically set by top executives or governance bodies and flowed down to the business.

Today, more and more businesses are adopting an ‘agile’ approach. In these organisations, data is king and as a result, decision-making is moved down the funnel to those who work closest to the information.

A truly agile organisation is more than simply the IT function using agile project management techniques like sprints and scrums. Instead, all departments regularly reflect on their processes to identify where they can optimise, move faster, and adapt to the changing environment… including the Legal function.

An agile organisation can ideally combine velocity and adaptability with stability and efficiency. - - McKinsey ‘The journey to an Agile organisation’

Becoming an agile Legal function

In-house Legal functions have typically followed their lead from the law firms where their General Counsel first cut their teeth. However, in-house counsel are becoming increasingly frustrated and finding that this reactionary way of working leaves the Legal function lagging when compared to the rest of the organisation. Rather than strategic business partners, Legal are viewed as cost-centres or blockers to execution.

Progressive Legal functions are looking beyond the norm for traditional Legal and leveraging the key tactics and processes that other business functions are using to thrive. In doing this, they are repositioning Legal as a strategic asset and competitive advantage within the business.

Agile Talent - Dynamic resourcing

For many organisations, Legal talent is typically viewed as a fixed headcount. A set number of lawyers who sit within the business ready to respond as they are needed.

This mindset is holding them back.

Most GCs ultimately find they never quite have the perfect balance of Legal resources to meet business demands. Unfortunately, maintaining a static in-house legal bench often leads to overworked Legal teams and unnecessarily outsourced work to external law firms.

To combat these ebbs and flows in Legal demand, many Legal functions are adopting an agile talent model.

Drawing from the talent model used by leading CIOs, these Legal functions are incorporating legal secondees from trusted partners, such as Plexus Engage, to better support the Legal team. These secondees provide the breadth of in-house expertise relevant to business matters, keep the legal work in-house, and enable the Legal team to play a more high-level, strategic role in overall business success.

Agile Service Delivery – the ‘more for less’ approach

Lawyers are some of the most brilliant minds in the organisation. Yet, often these highly skilled individuals are bogged down with churn work that provides limited value to the business.

Agile Legal functions look at how Legal can provide more value to the business with their limited resources. These functions understand where Legal is spending the bulk of their time, and search for alternatives that free Legal from the churn and unlock their strategic value to the business, setting everyone in the organisation up for long-term success.

Agile Technology - Digitising the legal function

When you typically think of legal support, you wouldn’t be wrong to imagine a lawyer in an office with a client. While not incorrect for some lawyers, this one-to-one support delivery method is mostly reserved for private practice rather than a modern business.

An in-house Legal team’s clients are the entire business. It simply no longer makes sense to attempt to serve the business in a one-to-one manner. More than just saving contracts in a shared document repository, agile Legal functions are utilising technology to transition to an agile one-to-many model.

The introduction of self-service tools allows Legal to scale their reach to anyone in the business, at any time of the day, right from their very own device. Contract workflow and automation software is allowing Legal functions to support the business to create legally compliant contracts on their own. Matter management tools are allowing Legal functions to triage and allocate legal work while capturing productivity insights. (Hint: these insights are very useful for the next stage).

Agile Processes - Adapting Legal to a modern operating environment

The modern business moves fast. Agile legal functions know they must keep up.

Agile processes and methodologies were initially designed to streamline work and ensure the team are always focused on the highest, most impactful projects.

Reviewing processes around Legal intake, projects, review, and approvals provide the function an opportunity to see what’s working and ‘pivot’ the moment improvements are needed. This might take the form of introducing ‘sprints’ into the Legal work process, or retrospectives, which allow Legal to reflect on their past performance and optimise for the next project. Read more about agile legal process management.

These agile project management tactics are especially effective when the function has access to data from their digitisation stage to use as a benchmark.

Over to you

Agile may be the buzzword of the moment, but it is well known for a reason. Maintaining agile functions across the business is a cited key to success for many growing businesses. Legal functions are ripe and ready to join the agile party. Is yours?

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