Surveys are show many corporate legal departments are bringing more work in-house. So it’s not surprising that the GCs and operations managers I’ve talked to this year are finding it more and more difficult to manage the volume of requests they receive for their services. Many departments have operated for years with a relatively informal system of internal customers calling or emailing legal department attorneys with their service requests. As the work is done, additional calls and emails from the attorney keep the requester updated until the task is complete. Someone in the department may use a spreadsheet to track assigned attorneys and status, but this has to be updated manually.
The Old Method Isn’t Sustainable
While small, co-located legal departments might use this process successfully, it does not scale to support a growing or global legal staff. As the volume of incoming requests – and the number of attorneys working on them – increases, several challenges typically arise:
Internal Customers don’t know how to make a request. Most often, they contact attorneys they know and have worked with before. But this makes it difficult to distribute work to the individual who has the most immediate availability and the needed expertise. It also fails to account for new legal staff and shifting responsibilities.
Requesters aren’t updated on status. Status updates that require an email or call to a customer are often not made by busy attorneys with many requests to attend to. Even when work is getting done in a timely manner, if customers aren’t aware of it, they are likely to feel frustrated with the service they’re receiving.
Efficiency suffers. When attorneys are taking calls requesting work, searching for email or files that contain supporting documents, or writing update emails, they are not using their time in a cost-effective way. These highly-skilled and highly-paid employees should be burdened with as little administrative work as possible to better manage legal costs.
Planning is difficult or impossible. Department records that are not detailed, are stored in disparate files, and are scattered across individual email accounts cannot provide insight about departmental operations. There is no way to track trends in types or sources of requests, analyze resolution timeframes, or predict and budget for likely upcoming workload.
A Better Approach
Fortunately, all of these challenges can be addressed by implementing a modern legal request management solution. A system that has been built for the specific purpose of managing and monitoring requests for legal work offers efficiency and scalability that is unattainable with a disconnected set of general administrative tools. While there are a number of options on the market, there are particular features that will help ensure the best results.
Easy request submission and visibility into status
A simple method by which all internal customers can make requests and monitor progress is essential. A robust solution will provide a user-friendly interface for generating a request and automatically send email notifications to the requester when the status is updated. Department managers should also have a way to view the status of all requests they are accountable for.
Robust collaboration tools
Many legal service requests require input from multiple members of the legal team. The solution should therefore incorporate workflow, document management, and audit trails so that team members are able to fully and easily collaborate on their work.
Seamless escalation into matter management
Requests for service sometimes spur legal matters, such as when an investigation into potential copyright infringement becomes an active legal case. The selected solution should automatically carry over all data and attachments into the matter management system, avoiding the need to re-enter information and ensuring accuracy.
Access to robust business intelligence provides the insights needed to conduct in-depth budget analyses and resource planning. The right system will provide visibility and comparative data on resources used and resolution times across practice areas, on specific tasks, and down to individual staff members.
When legal departments move to an automated, centralized system for receiving, tracking, and executing service requests, they can often cut costs while significantly improving their customer satisfaction. Greater transparency, streamlined processes, and improved resource allocation have a major positive impact on the legal department’s operations. Modernizing the legal department in this way provides fast, reliable ROI. By implementing a tool that provides these benefits, the department can significantly increase its value to the business and can leverage analytics that clearly demonstrate that added value.