Is Time On Your Side? Improve Efficiency, Increase Productivity

Monday, February 24, 2014 - 16:03

Everyone has the same 24-hour day, but the demands placed on that time are higher than ever before, especially for legal departments. To manage the pressure, legal departments now are implementing tools and leveraging services that increase efficiency and improve productivity.

Most legal departments deal with a broad spectrum of issues. When a specialty issue or matter arises, that work is often sent to outside counsel – whether large, time-consuming litigation or something smaller, such as an employment matter in another jurisdiction. But interestingly, more of this work is staying in-house: a recent survey of nearly 600 in-house attorneys conducted by Thomson Reuters showed that more than three-quarters of legal departments’ outsourced work has either decreased or stayed at the same level over the past two years.

As legal departments bring more work in-house, they are turning to advanced tools and software to increase productivity, better manage department workload and improve collaboration – internally and externally. And over the next two years, respondents of the Thomson Reuters survey said they were planning to add new automated tools and services that can improve efficiency and provide a return on investment, including workflow solutions that improve efficiency and performance by tapping into previous work product, as well as access legal know-how content.

Expert know-how content, such as forms and checklists provided by Practical Law, give lawyers a running start on legal matters, providing counsel with instant expertise in multiple areas of the law, improving service to internal clients and bringing an added level of value to the organization.

For instance, starting from scratch on a new project can be time-consuming and is certainly inefficient. Know-how resources (think checklists, guidance, templates) augment counsel’s ability to provide high-quality work the organization needs and demands. The content can easily be incorporated into the workflow of a matter, whether within the legal department or with outside counsel, to initiate a new matter, reduce duplicative efforts, or provide another layer of quality control.

Moreover, legal departments create substantial amounts of work product, and being able to access it can help jump-start work on new matters. But it can be time-consuming to search for those assets across multiple platforms and files, or to ask colleagues if they know if certain material exists. Legal staff must be able to quickly and easily tap into their repository of available work product, along with know-how content and legal research, and bring the relevant material from across those multiple sources together in one place.

Similarly, legal research often must be organized into relevant categories such as cases, statutes, regulations and user-generated documents, to ensure in-house counsel can access the right information at the right time.

While there may be sensitivities that need to be taken into consideration when using previous work product, a department’s own best practices often are the best starting point for drafting new documents or providing guidance to outside counsel. Additionally, the cases, statutes, regulations or administrative decisions that result from a search of previous work product will need to be verified that they are still good law. The legal search platform must be able to identify if the citations show the law has been reversed or has a negative history, allowing an opportunity to update the material needed for the current matter or revise previous projects to reflect any changes.

The best workflow tools provide seamless integration across complex legal department workstreams. Whether drafting documents or forms, doing new research or verifying that prior research is still "good law," implementing a legal hold or staying up-to-date with practitioner-focused current awareness and legal developments, being able to work within one platform saves time and increases production.

Thomson Reuters Concourse brings these functions together in a single, seamless workflow. Practical Law content can now be accessed through the Concourse dashboard providing an easy entry point to search for needed know-how content. And through Integrated Search using WestlawNext, a single query yields not only Westlaw data, but also relevant Practical Law content and department work product.

Through integration of leading-edge technology, tools and services, legal departments can streamline workflows to help save money, and also to save one of their most valuable resources – time.

Eric Laughlin is Managing Director, Corporate Counsel Segment, Thomson Reuters.