All effective in-house legal departments share a passion for wanting to improve, whether it’s identifying new efficiency gains, improving workflows, or lowering costs. Often, the best way to optimize is by following the advice of those who are already well-advanced in “climbing the mountain.” The following list of tips is based on input received from advanced users of Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker™, the top-rated and most widely used matter management, e-billing, and analytics system for corporate legal departments. None of them would say that they have reached the summit, because the reality is that this is a continuous journey of improvement. However, these clients are at the cutting-edge of legal operations, and this is their combined wisdom to help legal departments improve performance:
Tasks and tools
- Make status reports mandatory. Don’t be left in the dark with your open matters. Require the firms you work with to provide status reports so you can stay on top of all your ongoing legal matters.
Stay ahead of the curve by knowing the status of cases and approximate hours and costs.
- Set up scheduled reporting. Keep everyone in your legal department up to date with scheduled reporting. Set up automated reports to be sent out via email to specific contacts to your preferred timetable. So, if you want invoice reports to go to everyone in your legal department each day, it’s easy to create an automated daily report. Using scheduled reporting can save you from the hassle of manually sending out reports.
- Use a Billing Guideline Reviewer. After establishing your billing guidelines, use a billing guideline reviewer (BGR) to enforce those guidelines. Your BGR will be the preliminary invoice reviewer, performing initial invoice checks before routing them to invoice approvers (usually your lawyers). This will save your lawyers time while ensuring that the invoices they approve comply with your legal department’s billing guidelines.
- Deploy a Timekeeper Rate Review tool. Many legal departments do an effective job of negotiating rates, but they fall short when it comes to enforcing those negotiated rates during invoice review. The industry-leading Timekeeper Rate Review (TKRR) module in Tracker solves this problem. By using TKRR, you can easily review, adjust, and approve proposed billing rates from a law firm – all on one page. This feature allows you to negotiate and enforce your rates while also analysing rates between timekeeper classifications (e.g. partner vs. fee earner). Once these rates are fully approved, Tracker applies the rates to invoices through automated audits to ensure compliance with negotiated rates.
- Utilise matter management solutions. Say goodbye to clutter and paperwork and say hello to an easy way to manage matters.
Matter management gives you instant access to every aspect of your matters: every document, deadline, update, email, invoice, and person involved. You can easily organise, prioritise, analyse, compare, and share all your data internally and with your outside firms.
Use the Tracker matter management capabilities to avoid complexity when organising your information.
- Automate accrual collection. Most companies require their legal departments to report accruals to finance on a regular basis. This exercise can take up to 40 hours of time, sending emails to legal vendors, gathering unbilled amounts and aggregating them in one report, and sending the report to finance. All this information usually needs to be stored for audit purposes. Much of this work can be eliminated with the automated accrual functionality in Tracker.
- Create and enforce billing guidelines. Billing guidelines are an extremely efficient tool, but they don’t create themselves. Look to other legal departments to see what they’re doing with expense guidelines, timekeeper rates/rate increases, late invoices, etc. Once you create or update your guidelines, enforce and ensure compliance with your firms so that your invoices appear the way you want them.
- Consider law firm convergence. Do you have preferred firms or want to work with a lower total number of firms? If not, consider a preferred firm consolidation project. With a smaller number of firms, your company is likely to achieve better results like improved communication, deeper relationships with firms, and greater efficiencies.
Legal operations processes
- Focus on training. Having an internal process for using any e-billing and matter management software is key to using it efficiently. While there are always external resources at your disposal, it’s beneficial to have an in-house help system in place. Create user guides and schedule regular training sessions to ensure your staff are properly entering and maintaining data. Train new staff as part of the onboarding process so people become familiar with your system starting on day one.
- Conduct a pilot. Testing out a new invoice approval process or implementing a new workflow? Consider piloting the project. If you want to try something new, don’t test it with all your firms at the same time: reach out to one or two and experiment on a small scale. Always scale appropriately when implementing a new practice.
- Monitor behaviour. The data available in your systems can provide deep business insights and tell powerful stories. Use that data to monitor your company’s behaviour.
Deploy internal metrics to view your performance and compare internal and external costs. Focus on reports that show how your company can save both time and money.
- Analyse before taking action. If you see any alarming data, analyse it and identify what the problem actually is before you try to create a solution. Data might have been entered incorrectly or not in the most accurate way, such as not entering an appropriate task code. Always check with your stakeholders to verify a problem before you act to solve it.
- Communicate. A new technology can be versatile and have many capabilities, but it should never eliminate your legal department’s responsibility to communicate effectively. Don’t use software as an excuse to not talk to your stakeholders about why things are the way they are. “The numbers speak for themselves” isn’t always the case, so make sure you’re supplementing data with clear communication about the status of your operations.
- Continue to learn. One of the best things you can do is stay on the cutting edge of whatever technologies your legal department has deployed. The more you know about these systems, the more you can do with them. For the core technologies you use, invest in yourself by attending product sessions and paying attention to new updates and features. Check out online resources like tutorial videos which are usually offered through help sites. Stay up to date on your system.
These proven practices can help to streamline your company’s legal operations and save you time and money, especially when paired with Legal Tracker. Our mission is to help your legal operations perform better, and no one can attest to the value thatlegal Tracker delivers more than our clients. These high-performing legal departments are Tracker experts, and they know how important the role of technology can be in helping implement and enforce these best practices. By implementing these top tips, you can deliver greater value to your organisation and become a leading legal operations team.