Can technology help legal teams cost less and be more valuable?
In companies around the world, legal departments are in the middle of a transformation. Under pressure on several fronts, in particular from COVID-19-related workload increases but also other factors like increasing regulation, they are seeking new ways to deliver value.
Rather than focusing on routine tasks, the legal function of the future must be one that can both deliver sustained cost efficiencies and drive real value to the business. To achieve this, general counsels have increasingly been looking to integrate legal technology at the heart of their operations.
This was precisely the case for the GC of one large European financial services group. Under pressure from the Group CFO and COO to improve the operational effectiveness of the department, they sought to transform their legal operations framework so it could actively support the long-term goals of the business. The challenge, though, was that while it was clear that other departments had evolved their working models to deliver better value, the legal department was still working in much the same way as it had for years.
EY teams understood the nature of this problem and approached the company with a solution.
Build a platform to understand how your legal function is working
In order to help the company transform their legal function, EY teams undertook a project to digitize the entirety of the legal department.
While discussions went back as far as 2018, the end of 2020 saw EY teams giving the green light to develop a Proof of Concept (POC).
The solution is based on technology from the Kim© platform, and legal knowledge from the recently acquired Riverview Law. It provides the business with a transparent, dashboard-controlled way to get visibility into their legal function operations, allowing them to:
- Take all work incoming to their global legal department
- Decide where to allocate it
- Manage approvals
- Allow for workflow planning
- Track throughput time
The Kim platform, similar to IT ticketing platforms, manages the work allocation. It allows the GC and the legal departments to understand the workflow of the incoming legal inquiries and provides insights on: what work is coming into the legal department, where it is coming from and where it needs to go, how long it will take and how much it costs. That knowledge allows GCs to assess how well their teams are performing, and to analyze the capacity of the team or a single lawyer.
To start with, the POC project looked at one unit in particular within the bank’s legal operations to implement a version of the legal operations platform. This was then iterated gradually over a period of 12 weeks, until a final version was established. Several different stakeholders across EY and the company were involved in this process to facilitate its success.
Presenting to the general counsel, the bank’s own legal team expressed enthusiasm for the project, and they are now working with EY teams to build out the platform to cover more and more areas of the business.
To do so, the EY teams and the bank’s legal teams are working across multiple geographies, with groups based in London, Northern England, Switzerland, across central Europe, and in India.
The project is being implemented with an iterative development model, where five practice groups are being run in parallel. Once one solution has been implemented, the project will move on to the next one. To maintain the sprint approach, every week there is a catch up to review progress and make sure everything remains on track.
A deeper understanding leads to more informed strategic use of resources
The platform will have a three-year global rollout period. Ease of use is being prioritized throughout the design and implementation process, so that the bank will be able to manage, maintain, and upgrade it as they see fit, into the future.
Thanks to the digital platform, the company is now developing full visibility into their legal department’s operations, letting them know how work is being divided, who is delivering results, and how resources can be strategically reallocated for maximum effectiveness.
For example, it will be able to allow the legal function to identify things like low value, business-as-usual tasks that could be potentially outsourced or automated in a cost-effective way – freeing up internal legal personnel for more value-adding “brain” work. Or it can help them identify the type and amount of work being sent to external law firms, to enable more commercially effective contract negotiations with these third parties.
It can even help legal teams identify which personnel are high performers, giving them deep insight and transparency into their day-to-day operations, and helping them understand where and how value is being generated.
All this will help ensure the GC has a department operating as effectively as possible, helping drive forward the company into the future.
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