Legal Operations Essentials: The Legal Services Request Form
The gatekeeper to effective in-house legal function transformation
15 minutes • 04 Feb 20
Transforming an in-house legal function involves constantly “improving what you do”, yet too few in-house lawyers (“IHLs”) spend time analysing the workflows they support or how to improve their performance.
Legal Service Request Forms (“LSRF”) – the basis upon which you take instructions from your business – are one of the most potent “efficiency” enablers available to IHLs.
The LSRF is not just a shield to protect against “garbage in and garbage out’, it can be uniquely tasked to generate powerful data to help support and optimise your legal operational decisions.
Sadly, too few IHLs leverage the transformative power of this simple tool, despite it costing almost nothing to implement, and it being the gatekeeper to enhanced legal operation performance.
This article explores the costs of not implementing a LSRF, the criticality of its role to legal function transformation, and how quick and easy it is for your team to harness its benefits.
GLS ISSUE INSIGHT
Like most IHLs, you may find yourself servicing a non-stop flow of support requests that leave little time for you to step back and strategise how to move to a more optimal mode of operating.
Legal function optimisation requires strategic, potent and data driven interventions to maximise the productivity of finite resources and to evidence underlying function value.
This process starts by building up a crystal-clear picture of what the business:
1. expects you to do (i.e. your domain responsibility); and
2. is actually requesting you to do on a day to day basis.
Whilst we will cover “domain responsibility” in the future, this article spotlights the huge “productivity” enablers available by improving your approach to taking and analysing “actual” client requests.
Before offering tips on the incredible efficiencies and insights that LSRF enabled client engagement brings, lets quickly revisit the price that IHLs pay for not putting in place self-authored LSRFs.
CONSEQUENCES OF UNDERLYING PROBLEM
"Time spent interpreting "bad instructions" can be one of the greatest inefficiencies experienced by in-house lawyers."
IHLs that do not utilise a LSRF-based protocol for taking instructions from their business, are likely to face some, if not all, of the following challenges and suffer the resulting diminished team performance:
• Instruction Quality: incomplete, low quality instructions that you spend valuable time clarifying
• Workflow Allocation: inability to more efficiently leverage optimal work type / SLA prioritisation
• Responsiveness: reduced ability to build capacity to respond to urgent matters
• Forecasting: inability to effectively forecast workflows/man-hour support requirements
• Resource identification: reduced ability to assess and forecast team skill/resource requirements
• Self Help Resources: inability to drive internal client users towards self-help resources
• Resource Stretch: chronic resource stretch and consequently low team morale
• Client Satisfaction: generally lower than desired internal client satisfaction levels
• Transformation: limited collection of data to author/ justify your transformation agenda
Without LSRFs, work requests arrive via a deluge of emails, WhatsApps, voice mails, corridor conversations, etc, which are typically late, short on detail, and require significant clarification.
Most likely, you mobilise on the basis of a mix of FIFO and “oiling the wheel that squeaks the loudest” – creating manic operating conditions, where you are always busy but always on the back foot.
This operating model no longer “cuts it” – either for you, or for your internal client. Being too busy to become less busy is not sustainable.
So, how can the LSRF help?
BENEFITS IF PROBLEM IS SOLVED WELL
As we say at GLS, many times a day, “simplicity is the best antidote to complexity”.
Implementing LSRFs is the simple solution to significantly eliminate and/or mitigate most of the above drivers of legal operation inefficiencies.
Here are just a few of the benefits of implementing a LSRF into your legal ecosystem:
• Quality Instructions: a dramatic boost in the quality of your instructions
• Productivity: more impactful use of legal team capacity as less time is spent clarifying instructions
• Basic KPI’s: data driven insights on fundamental team performance data
• Enhanced KPI’s: ability to add on more detailed data requests going forward
• Resourcing: data driven insights into future resourcing requirements of the team
• Formative Advice: asking the correct questions early delivers more effective advisory outcomes
• Automation: potential to automate the instruction process (eg host on intranet)
• Centralisation: all instructions are received via the same “ingress” point, enabling effective oversight
• Tasking: greater scope to match tasks to team capabilities and work loads
• Prioritisation: data driven ability to more efficiently prioritise work tasks
• Resource Forecasting: greater data on work type & capacity forecasting
• Analytics: IHLs can better understand and respond to workflow/busyness patterns
• Validation: ability to objectively demonstrate IHL’s contributions via empirical data
• Transparency: clearer insights into each team member’s workloads
• Budgeting Legitimacy: legal budget requests can increasingly be supported by hard data
• IHL Relief: IHLs gain respite from the pressures of ad-hoc/low quality support requests
• Standard Definition: establishing a LSRF helps you think about defining IHL SLAs
• Customer Services: LSRF promotes an internal customer service mentality
• Saves Client Time: the internal client knows exactly what is needed to mobilise IHLs
• Improved Quality: better instruction inputs drives better IHL support outputs
• IHL Morale: is improved as workflows/contributions become verifiable matters
• Client Satisfaction: internal clients are reassured about improving team service
In short, the case for implementing the LSRF is as overwhelming.
Let’s now look at the essential elements that should go into a basic LSRF deployment
LEGAL SERVICES REQUEST FORMS
“An effective LSRF delivers a quality instruction that allows IHLs to efficiently mobilise whilst generating valuable legal operations data to drive ongoing legal function improvements.”
The LSRF data included by organisations may differ, but at a minimum it must allow that organisation, in its own unique way, to achieve the above stated outcomes at a pace their organisation can handle.
At a bare minimum, the LSRF (for non-litigation instructions) should include the following data points:
Client: who is the underlying client requesting support (eg business unit)
Contact: who to contact in connection with the instruction
Deliverable(s): what specific deliverables are being sought
Parties: ID and contact details of any counterparties
Background: essential background information
Documentation: attach all relevant documentation
Deadline: a realistic date by when a response is required
Red Flags: any instruction related sensitivities to be observed
Obviously, the more data you capture at the point of instruction the more insights/efficiencies can be derived. However, the maturity of your internal client will positively correlate with LSRF sophistication.
The LSRF can reside on any number of effective mediums – whether an intranet portal, Microsoft Form, Spring CM task card or simple Word Doc -but in all cases it should create an e-record.
Enabling LSRF’s via “e-forms” is critical to compressing the time internal clients spend generating instructions - the use of checklists, drop-down menus also help drive the precision of the instruction.
SO, WHY DON’T YOU HAVE ONE?
We observe that over 80% of organisations do not regularly use a formal LSRF process.
Given that LSRFs can be so effective, why aren’t more IHLs adopting them?
Some oft-cited reasons for not adopting such tools include:
• Overlooked: many legal functions perpetuate existing practices so may not have thought of it
• Culture Change: the client will see this as an additional burden (they always say that!)
• Lack of Time: you need to stop, think and prepare the LSRF – this does take time
• Reference Models: what should the LSRF actually look like?
• Data Capture: how much is too little or too much instruction related data to be requesting?
• Scepticism: scepticism that such a tool can be formulated and deliver substantive benefits
The reality is that all IHLs want better quality instructions and all IHLs are under pressure to perform more productively.
So the above excuses no longer represent justifiable reasons for not implementing your own LSRF.
THE GLS SOLUTION
GLS has developed a world class, fully worked up suite of “off the shelf” LSRF’s that IHLs can quickly customise and implement into their business environment, all for just USD99.
GLS Legal Services Request Form™ includes both a basic and an advanced LSRF allowing you to simply select what is most suitable for you and your unique organisation.
This solution allows you to instantly and qualitatively improve your business’s engagement process, make better use of your limited available resources and improve your legal team's outputs.
This solution will allow you to better track, record and report inbound instructions for legal support, thereby capturing important data for budget defenses / transformation agenda advocacy.
Critically, our solution allows you to implement a vital enabler for IHL transformation – the ability to generate performance data to take greater control over your future.
And, as with all GLS solutions, this tool includes guidance and support on how to effectively implement it into your business ecosystem (including change management guidance).
CONCLUSION & NEXT STEPS
If you do not know precisely what work your IHL team is doing then nobody else in your organisation will either - compounding the chronic low value recognition profile of most IHLs.
Spending USD99 and a tiny amount of time to implement a Legal Service Request Form should be a “no brainer” for any serious legal operations transformation agenda.
The GLS Legal Services Request Form™ and all necessary guidance on how to implement it, is now instantly available to you.