Do more . . .
©2018 Peter Krakaur
Doing “more for less?” You have, of course, adopted new productivity paradigm — circa 2012. Some law firm laterals adopted this as true innovation in 2013. Others suggest the legal market embraced “more for less” by 2009. The calls for a different pace likely started much, much earlier. If it is any comfort, the legal vertical is not venturing in this direction alone. See e.g., compliance, professional development, female-led startups, financial instruments, the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group, and multinational energy corporations
We are asked to do “more.” One implication is that whatever it is we are doing, it is suboptimal in the eyes of the company cox. As the cadence for “more” increases, general counsel and their business partners, law firms, and legal service providers balance pressures to do it with “less” despite facing increased workloads, client demands, and risk to manage. Near-term action is a practical business imperative since we are advised that “more for less” pressures will continue for next decade of legal service.
The typical reflex to these pressures is to focus on the “less,” translating “for less” to signify “with less,” thereby accepting that smaller numbers, lower budgets, and/or fewer things or people is how one should proceed. With all respect to Nike, when faced with the “more for less” pressures du jour, it is unwise to just “do” it. The result may be suboptimal:
|More with less||Less with less||Less with more|
How, What, Why?
One must ensure alignment at the start to drive any action of strategic consequence. Focusing first on how one is going to do what misses the important, necessary question of why. Simply doing “less” is not a path to business success; it is a point solution. Will one do more with less, more of the same, or more but less better? One does not need an uncomplicated graphic to know that the probable (and shortest) path with “less” is “less.” The exercise seems like a no-win situation absent an innovative approach.
Why, What, How?
Discerning the context — the why — is necessary to construct new strategies to conquer business challenges (opportunities?) Start with strategy, with why, with purpose.
The why behind the request for “more” may take many forms, including:
- scale & agility
- engagement & transparency
Legal professionals must actively assess this context to build and sustain a fluid legal service delivery portfolio — the “what”— combining:
- contracting velocity
- IP portfolio growth/protection
- entity rationalization
- tax and financing advice
- acquisitions and restructuring
- data and privacy protection
- aggressive litigation
- mediated settlements
- risk mitigation
- ethics & compliance programs
With starting and end lines in sight, legal professionals can counsel business partners how a calculated legal service delivery model will drive the business forward.
Do More for Value
Synergy: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
Lawyers counsel clients on approaches to legal issues that achieve specific business goals. Legal professionals facing “more for less” pressures similarly should focus on how to align the value delivered (the what) to the value a client needs (the why). Shifting from “more for less” to “more for value” requires investments in activities that yield higher returns. It demands productivity – doing at least more with the same. It calls for purpose and a more expansive view of how, steering forward in the context of business pressures of today and tomorrow. The path to deliver “more for value” is defined through a synergistic combination of doing more with design, talent, technology, and data.
Doing more with design
Technology and people do not deliver value absent thoughtful processes designed and aligned with purpose for business. Disciple and rigor guide what should be done, what should not be done, who owns what, and what should not be owned. With a business why perspective, legal professionals should consider consciously what tasks and activities they should execute and what is better performed with different legal staffing paradigms or by business partners and clients.
Assessing the maturity of operations, legal professionals should stratify legal work, the people who do that work, and the associated costs according to value. Design for value before purchasing technology to palliate the calls for less. Design your data architecture to capture data that will help you build, manage, and assess your value.
Doing more with talent
In-house teams, their external counsel, and legal service providers are actively considering new legal service delivery paradigms. Legal professionals, focusing on the practice of law, change talent approaches, hiring operations professionals to manage the business of aligning “more” legal service delivery with “less.”
What talent is in place today? What skills do they possess and what will they need to succeed? Although current resources may have the requisite skills to do the work of yesterday, do these resources have the right IQ and EQ skills to do “more” for tomorrow? Adjust talent strategy to business strategy, investing in the right talent and culture that aligns with designed processes. Hire purple people that speak the requisite languages.
Doing more with technology
Confronting “more for less” pressures, legal professionals petition for new, perhaps additional, “systems” or “tools” to drive efficiency. These approaches validate the law of the instrument, implicitly deflecting scrutiny from people and process issues. Although contract, document, compliance, entity and legal spend management systems are arguably necessary systems for legal service delivery, it is debatable whether they are sufficient to deliver value.
Legal professionals increasingly rely on tech-enabled solutions to drive change in the broader legal service delivery model. Legal operations and technical professionals help to translate what is feasible with current technology offerings. Before proceeding with any technology solution, however, understand what legal service delivery processes and staffing models will deliver business value. Technology alone is insufficient.
Augmented intelligence developments challenge us to rethink the balance between minds and machines. Despite what some technology providers may claim, until we reach the Singularity, technology-driven value rests on foundations of intentionally architected, aligned process and talent strategies.
Doing more with data
The evidence is overwhelming that, whenever the option is available, relying on data and algorithms alone usually leads to better decisions and forecasts than relying on the judgment of even experienced and “expert” humans.
Data speaks. A legal department turning 50,000 contracts per year translates roughly to 12,500 contracts per quarter or 4,160 contracts per month, give or take quarter-end variations. All things being equal, it might take a team of 50 people each to process 83 contracts per month, roughly 20 contracts per week.
Few contracts are created equally. Businesses are driven with a mix of legal agreements, including purchase and sale contracts, licenses, NDAs, employment agreements, and outsourcing agreements. They range from the simple to the complex. Legal professionals and businesses appropriately focus on data concerning legal and business obligations. Data concerning the processes to create, negotiate and maintain these agreements is equally compelling, particularly when facing “more for less” pressures.
An expansive view into all legal service delivery data is necessary to drive “more” value. Understand who is doing what and the strategic value they produce to assess whether the time and cost invested yields strategic business value. Data captured today or tomorrow may suggest that the designed processes and talent strategies need to be revisited. Leverage design and data together.Iterate. Make data sing.
Today, tomorrow, or some quarter in the not-too-distant future, legal professionals will hear the clarion call of “more for less.” This temporal focus will be framed as the new, immediate normal. Do not wait for this call. Take action now to frame the discourse so the question of how “more” will be realized does not devolve into a simple cost management exercise. Engage instead on discussions on “more for value.” This will position legal professionals to (re)design aligned processes with the right talent, technology and data strategies that collectively will realize near- and long-term business goals. More or less.