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Ever felt like you're constantly putting out fires, only to find more flames around the corner? You're not alone. Every in-house legal counsel knows this feeling all too well. The secret to getting ahead isn't working harder; it's working smarter. But how?

1. Strategy 
2. Technology
3. Talent

These three pillars can elevate your legal team from fire-fighters to strategic visionaries. Join us as we explore actionable advice from top GCs who've mastered the art of prioritizing legal resources to boost efficiency and drive business forward.

1. Create a strategy: A concrete plan to maximize resources

A legal department’s strategy helps the legal team align with the goals of the business.

Having a strategy can help you with:

1. Efficient resource allocation
2. Management of legal risks
3. Improved stakeholder relationships
4. Improved performance as well.

However, before preparing a strategy, it’s important to gauge the current situation from both financial and non-financial perspectives. On that note, Akshay Verma, formerly Director, Head of Legal at Coinbase and Meta and currently, COO of SpotDraft says,

"I am a big believer in planning and forethought before you jump in, particularly in operations. Instead of investing in technology or new processes, just pause for a minute and think, ‘Why are we doing this? What's the plan? What happens when things go south? How do we mitigate this?’ I think all those things are important"

In this current business environment that is wracked with uncertainty and challenges, it becomes harder to prioritize, allocate and manage existing resources, let alone investing in new resources. That is also why the strategy should also include the risks and a plan on how to mitigate the situation in case of these risks.

2. Leverage technology: Use latest tools to maximize efficiency:

A lot of legal teams are using technology to increase productivity and get more out of limited time and resources. It’s time to ask the critical questions: What obstacles is your team facing? What are the technological gaps? Can investing in these technologies help overcome those obstacles? 

Sue So, Head of Legal Hopin emphasized the importance of technology for today’s lawyers.

“It's good for a SaaS lawyer to be tech-savvy because it helps to know what tools are at your disposal and how to use them best. Go to the people who know how to use these tools well and ask them if it's possible to set up the workflows/automations you want within them.”

Looking for the right tool to accelerate contract management for your legal team? Get a demo of SpotDraft to experience an all-in-one CLM platform in action.

Legal teams have historically been averse to automation and new technologies. The shift to remote/hybrid work accelerated the shift to creating a technology-forward legal team. The rise of AI could be key to increasing productivity of your legal team by leaps and bounds.

Several studies have found that legal spending on a technology stack has drastically increased post 2020. They have also found that technology, especially latest trends in AI, have increased legal productivity and given lawyers back time to focus on more high-level legal work rather than merely routine, mundane tasks that can be automated. 

On that subject, Genevieve Kelly, General Counsel at Goodwin Procter LLP says.

"I think AI will eventually be a true gift to legal teams by freeing up more time for lawyers to be creative rather than just doing lower level types of reviews that can be automated.”

Artificial Intelligence is no longer for large-scale organizations with expansive resources. Today, even smaller in-house legal teams can get their hands on some pretty advanced tech without blowing their budgets. Some types of free AI tools available for in-house legal teams are:

1. Document Automation 
2. Legal Research AIs 
3. Chatbots for Client Interaction
4. Predictive Analysis tools 

Excited about integrating AI into your in-house legal operations but wary of the cost? Good news! Check out this blog for a list of free AI tools for the above functions. 

3. Have a hiring plan in place: Choose top talent with right skills

Before getting to the point of hiring a legal team, it’s important to lay out a structure and vision. Ask the right questions like: 

1. “What competencies and skills will you require? And which are the essential roles and what are the job descriptions?” 
2. “What’s the budget and how to prioritize according to this allocation?” 
3. “What are the organizational changes in the foreseeable future?” 

These questions will give clarity on the needs of the organization and how to hire a lean team that will fit the requirements. 

This also needs to be followed by an interview process that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates that you’re considering to fill required roles. Aside from the skills required, there also needs to be a fit for the role and the organization in question. 

Stephanie Dominy, Consultant GC and Startup Advisor says,

“In a fast-growing company, you may need a hiring plan that is several months ahead of where you are currently. The folks you hire should be experienced enough to deal with that future reality, rather than the current state. Of course, macroeconomic factors can change all of that because if you hire too far ahead, you will end up with  too much seniority and not enough to keep them busy.”

It’s not merely about hiring the right talent, it’s also about making sure that your organization retains the talent. This comes down to creating an unmatched employee experience. To prioritize employees as a resource to grow and improve your legal team, it would be about retaining talent that will positively impact the business. 

To speak on that subject, Akshay Verma says,

“Whether you're hiring fresh grads or not, you need to create an outstanding employee experience to be competitive. And that has to do with more than just compensation and stock option packages. I used to hear a lot about success and money when I was a law student. But now, it's family, time, autonomy, and happiness that matter. I think that's a great thing for human beings.”

4. Anticipate the future: Put a scalability plan in place

Legal Ops is becoming an essential part of legal teams. It’s the team that ensures that you run an in-house legal department like a business. While legal is more concerned with risk mitigation, legal ops considers actions from a business perspective. Some of their responsibilities include financial planning, project management and a more careful evaluation of legal’s technology portfolio.

This makes your legal team more future-proof and can be scaled up according to requirements. Legal ops also showcases the legal team’s value and the role they play in accelerating business.

Ken Priore, formerly Director of Privacy at Atlassian and currently, Associate General Counsel at DocuSign says

“You cannot scale without a comprehensive and well-structured legal ops team. I've worked in organizations where legal ops have been just a person who is usually overstressed and working a lot of tools. And I've worked with teams that have been more structured. The first thing is to be very clear and have an understanding of how you want to use an operations team.”

Scalability is only possible when legal goals align with organizational goals. departments, especially legal, cannot work in silos without considering the overall business goals. This is where you have already filled the right roles and you have a lean, but powerful legal team to help execute departmental goals and add value to the business. It then comes with assessing who will handle which project and how to make the best ‘outcome-based decisions’. With all the above points in mind, this can be achieved seamlessly. 

Megan Niedermeyer, Chief Legal Officer at says,

“At the end of the day, we want to see the right outcome for the business. There are a couple of ways to get there, and we should decide based on our business, our talent, our current resourcing, our current experience, which way we want to skin the cat. Assess these aspects carefully to figure out who's going to take the lead on a certain area of responsibility and who's going to follow. But those should be outcome-based decisions rather than ownership-based decisions.”

Prioritizing legal resources can be tricky, especially in today’s economic climate. With the help of a strategy/plan, the right talent and technology that fuels the team, it can help to maximize legal resources. By anticipating the challenges ahead, you can make your legal team future-proof and align the departmental goals with the organizational goals. It ensures that the team is productive and also there is a significant value-add to the business. 

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