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How Productivity Turns You into a Super Efficient Legal Counsel (3/4)

04 Jun 2020
Adrien van den Branden, LL.M.
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This is the third leg of a four-part series on how to become a super efficient legal counsel. Go read the introduction and the part on the visibility principle if you are joining us now.

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” ― Francine Jay, The Joy of Less

Instead of getting more legal work done, we consciously organize ourselves each day to have less to endure tomorrow.

Each word is important:

  • More: it is not about getting more done
  • Legal work: it's not about doing "legal" work
  • Consciously: we do not improve by accident or hope for the best
  • Organize: we lay out the groundworks to make us work better and faster, we invest in ourselves as legal minds
  • Each day: change happens day by day, not all at once
  • Endure: that's the key word. We don't want to work less, we want to work smart and enjoy ourselves at work. Work should be interesting, challenging, not a struggle.

The rules to make it work for us are:

  • We have a hacking mindset. Productivity starts with a simple rule: each time we perform a legal task, we try to think of a way of redoing it faster or better next time around.
  • We do post mortems ☠️. When we complete a major project, we do a post mortem where we ask ourselves "👍 What went well?" and "👩‍🏫 What could be improved for next time?". Post mortems allow us to identify the lessons learned and to improve our templates and processes. Writing down a post mortem takes some dedication and it may be tempting to bypass the exercise. So we try to build it as the project unfolds (e.g. by putting ☠️ signs in our matter management tool). We usually prepare our post mortems entirely in writing. Each member of the team contributes asynchronously. Sometimes, we may take advantage of the last project meeting to do a quick experience sharing, together with the relevant stakeholders (business people, legal advisors, etc.).
  • We save reusable content. When a project is done, we ask ourselves whether we can reuse the content next time around. Most of the time, the answer is "yes". We save all the content of the matter (briefing, checklists, drafts, resources, etc.) as a template for later reuse. Since we write everything down, all decisions and issues are already documented. So knowhow builds up as the matter unfolds, which is a great time-saver.
  • We process our work. We document and standardize our workflows whenever we can. We have created dedicated pipelines for our recurring legal work, with pre-built approvals and questions to ask.
  • We use checklists. We use checklists to make sure we don't miss anything. We update those checklists accordingly and save them in our matter templates. We keep it simple: checklist items must answer a "yes" or "no" question. We use the matter briefing and post mortems to document more complex decisions.
  • We automate admin not content. Automation accelerates the delivery and improves the consistency of documents. However, it takes time and effort to set up and maintain properly. Plus, it is not adaptable to each and every situation. This is why we are not automating agreements at our company. But we automate administrative tasks like scanning documents, archiving documents and setting reminders.

The key benefits that productivity brings us are:

  • We accelerate while preserving consistency. Organising our legal work around standardized processes fast-tracks the delivery of our legal matters while making sure we comply with our internal rules.
  • We save time on admin tasks. We automate the scanning and archiving of documents. This saves us time so we can focus on content and creativity.
  • We save our souls. Who likes to file and store documents anyway? We do not want bright legal minds to waste their time doing document management housekeeping.

Organizing legal work around productivity is central to a modern legal function. The trick here is to try to work less, not more, to achieve your desired outcomes.

There are so many ways to embed productivity into your legal work.

At eFounders, Canyon helps us a lot by automating admin tasks (like filing documents and emails). We also use Canyon to accelerate our work while preserving quality (through matter templates).

We translated the productivity principle in the above rules. Remember that the rules may change over time and vary depending on your industry and your style. But the underlying principles should remain the same.

How to get started

My advice is to start off your LegalOps journey with adopting the visibility principle first. Then move on to productivity and autonomy in your legal work.

LegalOps is not only about adopting new technology. It is first and foremost about making a vision come true.

How do you represent your legal function in your wildest dreams?

How would you like your legal team to be considered within your organization?

At Canyon, we help legal teams make the shift towards operational excellence.

If you are eager to find out more, start off the discussion by telling us about the biggest hurdle you see on your LegalOps journey.

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