5 questions to help become a data-driven in-house legal team


Legal teams often lack the necessary tools to unlock the data needed to understand and optimise their legal operations.  A data driven legal team understands the legal data already available, has analysed what data may be missing and has structures in place like KPIs and OKRs to gain actionable insights from streams of live data.  If data is missing, the next step is putting in place the tools needed, such as matter management, to unlock legal data.


Legal counsel and legal operations personnel at different stages of their data journey can use these 5 simple questions to drive a data strategy to yield results in terms of streamlined operations and improved client service.


Legal Matter Management

1.  What type of work do we do as a legal team?


The question may seem trivial but without some system of record, any answer to this question will likely be subjective and incomplete. 


This creates a blind spot in the knowledge required to answer important questions around what the team should look like, what resources it needs and how it delivers value to the organisation.


What’s more, the value this insight will bring is not limited to the legal team. For instance, simply capturing structured data about a company’s contracts in a consistent and standardised way can produce actionable business intelligence for wider business decision making.



2. Where does our legal work come from?


Which internal clients are generating the team’s work? In what proportions?

This information can help with a range of decisions around planning and allocating resource, stakeholder management and how to ensure the legal team is getting the support and recognition it deserves.


Again, there are also deeper, less ‘obvious’ insights to be gained e.g.


  • Are we currently allocating our attention in a way which reflects the priorities of the organisation as a whole reflected in organisational OKRs? Or are we just serving whichever internal clients shout the loudest?
  • Are any stakeholders conspicuous by their absence? Perhaps some training is needed to help them understand how legal can help and/or when policy requires involvement of the legal team. Or perhaps there’s a (real or imagined!) issue with getting the legal team’s input.


3. What volume of legal work are we managing?


In today’s remote or hybrid work environment, maintaining an online, accessible, reliable and up-to-date log of matters is more important than ever to inform day-to-day team management decisions. 

Having clear and objective data to hand on the team’s workload is also vital for managing internal stakeholder expectations. This works both ways: to support any instances where it’s necessary to ‘push back’ when being asked to take on additional work or indeed to avoid inadvertently taking on more work than the team can handle or can deliver in a timely fashion.


Over a longer time-horizon, capturing this data is crucial to understanding whether the team has sufficient resource and if not what the best solution might be. Hiring internally might be the answer. But if the data reveals a seasonal element to the work which causes periodic ‘surges’ in demand, perhaps it would be sensible to explore flexible resourcing models widely available from law firms and Alternative Legal Service Providers.



4. How long does legal work take to complete?


There are many reasons why an in-house legal team should build up an accurate picture of how long work takes to complete, ideally broken down by work type and milestones between work being initiated and concluded. Some of the benefits include:


  • Managing client expectations – being able to accurately estimate the likely time required to complete a piece of work – or specific stages of the workflow – provides value to the wider business;
  • Resource management – being able to predict in advance whether additional resource will be needed to hit any deadlines;
  • Alignment with organisation – tracking whether the time being spent on particular types of work lines up with the wider organisation’s overall goals and priorities;
  • Tracking performance – being able to spot potential issues/bottlenecks early if a matter is not progressing as ordinarily anticipated; having data to hand to demonstrate which stages of a workflow are causing any delays (particularly where these delays are occurring outside of the legal team!); and being able to present objective data demonstrating the legal team’s performance and stellar turnaround times!


5. What does our legal triage process look like and who is handling the work?


In-house Lawyers


In most in-house legal teams you will have lawyers with a range of specialisms, receiving requests via an assortment of channels from a variety of internal clients, with work often being sent to whichever lawyer the internal client knows best.


At a team-level, this hinders any effective analysis of whether the right people are doing the right work at the right time.


For individuals, morale or even mental health and well-being is at risk if certain team members are receiving more – or indeed less – work than their peers.


Law Firms – External Counsel


While many inhouse teams closely control external instructions and spend to law firms, we are often surprised by how many inhouse lawyers still have limited grasp of their organisations overall legal spend on outside counsel – either from the legal team or the wider business. However, if you capture data on both internal and external utilisation, you can start asking more interesting questions such as:


  • How much of our legal and compliance work do we keep in-house vs sending externally?
  • What would work carried out in-house have cost to carry out if outsourced to a law firm?
  • Are there any skills/specialisms we should be hiring into the team to reduce external spend?
  • Which internal client’s matters are resulting in the most external legal spend? Is that in line with the organisation’s overall goals and priorities?


What’s next? Capturing this legal data.


If you’re not currently collecting any of this data in a structured way, you could get started today, with a spreadsheet but as we have already written, there are many limitations to working with spreadsheets.


This is where Tabled can help.


Through a combination of a digital front door to legal, powered by smart intake forms and seamless integrations with email and other communication channels like Slack or Teams, you can quickly and easily streamline your legal intake while also capturing the data points covered in this post (and more besides).


A few clicks are all it takes to allocate work, update the status of your matters or review any KPIs you wish to track, leaving you free to focus on what’s important and not the admin.


Tabled also keeps clients updated via automated alerts and personalised dashboards as well as supporting internal and external collaboration with law firms and other legal service providers.



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