Legal Operations teams are opening up a new frontier in legal technology in the search for streamlined processes and enhanced efficiency. As Bloomberg points out, that’s happening at every kind of enterprise, from Apple to Google to others concerned about the escalating cost of legal services. It was a topic on the minds of many attendees at CLOC Institute 2018, they note.
By turning to data analytics, these teams are looking to use granular metrics to guide their decision-making about employing outside counsel. It’s a level of active management that’s come about only in the last few years, as costs have spiraled, especially during phases like pre-trial discovery.
Apple has adopted a centralized data system which helps them evaluate everything from the jurisdiction where a case goes to court to whether or not an outside counsel will stay within budget. That’s an asset for those outside firms, too, as it helps them make more precise decisions about discovery, saving their client money. Analytics can then be used to extrapolate how and where to find future savings and efficiencies, as well.
Understanding costs: an ‘innovation’ for legal departments
Now that the processes and practices of corporate legal departments are being professionalized, the leaders of those Legal Ops groups are taking measures to bring cost management up to a level that’s already typical of other departments in an enterprise. As Mary O’Carroll of Google noted in closing this year’s CLOC Institute…
“When I first got to Google, we didn’t have a good way of tracking our outside counsel spending, so we invested in building an outside counsel dashboard. This won us awards and a lot of attention. It helped us win ‘Most Innovative Dept of the Year’… that’s right… ‘Most Innovative.’ In what other world does a dashboard that reports your budgets vs actuals somehow ‘innovative’?! Do you think a marketing department has ever won an award for having a means to track the spending on its marketing campaigns? The reason it was so ‘innovative’ is because no one else was doing it.”
She also made a point about how much vital room for improvement still remains, despite the gains:
“As much as we’ve made huge strides, there are still so many areas of our industry where technology is not meeting our needs…”
When legal automation meets analytics
The partnership between data analytics and legal workflow automation is one of the areas where there’s already been vast improvement, and there’s still more in store as 2018 winds forward.
An SaaS legal workflow automation platform with strong integrated analytics functions allows managers and workflow designers to make detailed assessments about process performance and success. Inefficiencies can be identified and eliminated by iteratively improving workflow templates; even when a workflow is already in progress, it should be possible for a designer to make adjustments to optimize results.
Other analytics features of a legal WFA solution should include custom dashboards with drilldown capability, real-time data updates, delivery of reports directly to your inbox, availability of multiple chart types, reporting interfaces and custom views, and data export for offline review.
The visibility into all workflows a state-of-the-art workflow automation platform gives to managers allows them to leverage Legal Operations analytics tools across their entire department. As other departments and groups begin to leverage workflow automation to embed legal and compliance practices in their own workflows, process optimization can even extend outside of Legal Ops. Giving the legal department a more central and strategic role across the whole organization.
But more immediately, the integration of workflow automation and Legal Operations analytics gives legal departments the efficiency and effectiveness they need to meet all the demands they’re facing. Because even as legal environments get more complex, risk and compliance challenges multiply, the pressure to keep costs under control just keeps mounting.