This post was written by Sirin Torpis, regional field manager at Thomson Reuters

What do, Outlook, and the iPhone all have in common? They are all disruptive technologies. Amazon’s online shopping forum has changed the means through which consumers buy goods and read books – from brick-and-mortar shops and shopping malls and bookstores to a virtual storefront, bookseller and e-reader provider. Similarly, Outlook, and other email platforms, have largely replaced “snail mail” and the fax machine. And the iPhone – and other smartphones – well, “there’s an app for that®.” Need I say more?

Why did these new methods take off so quickly? The benefits are numerous: convenience, efficiency, time savings, cost savings, ease of use, better collaboration, more effective communication, and more. It wasn’t the underlying need that changed, it was the medium through which people addressed the need that changed.

And for the same reasons that consumers have embraced disruptive efficiencies like those mentioned, companies are embracing the utility and benefits of increasing their reliance on their in-house legal departments and bringing more legal work inside. It’s about cost savings and time efficiency. According to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 1.1 billion in budget that used to go towards outside legal spend is now being reallocated towards internal legal department resources. Similarly, 58 percent of companies surveyed are sending work in-house rather than sending it to outside counsel. To meet these increasing demands effectively, law departments are acquiring new talent and technology.

As Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, observed, speculating on what might change in the next 10 years is interesting, but it is not as important as identifying what’s not going to change in the next 10 years. Why? Because once you pinpoint needs that will stay constant, you can build a sustainable business strategy around those things. We all know that companies will continue to need legal services. That will stay constant. Where companies and their law departments can evolve, though, is in the delivery of those legal services.

To that end, if you and your legal department have cost-control and efficiency as part of your 2015 initiatives, here are three best practices a corporate counsel veteran recently shared with me as key considerations in delivering and demonstrating increased time and efficiency savings. They have maintained the company’s legal spend the same over the past several years, while helping the company to grow from a $1 billion company to a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Once you know the infrastructure around your strategy, you can put the right technologies and people in place to deliver on it:

  • Figure out what you are going to measure. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
    • These metrics will serve as the basis of what you report on and the basis for demonstrating your department’s success and value.
  • What matters to your department? Relevant metrics should include:
    • Legal spend
    • Number of matters/projects that the law department is managing
    • External benchmarks (e.g. hourly rates)
  • Understand the business and know how to help drive your company’s bottom line.
    • Leverage business principles like the “80/20 Rule” in your law department: (i.e., focus 80 percent of your internal resources on the 20 percent of the business that drives revenue).
    • Hire attorneys who have some type of business background or experience, in conjunction with or in addition to their legal experience. They will focus on delivering legal services that align with the revenue goals of the company.

As Pablo Picasso said, “Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.”

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