Is Your Legal Department 'Mature'?

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 31, 2015 12:55 PM

What is "maturity"? In organizational management, it's the degree to which organizational processes are formalized and optimized, meaning they're documented, structured, and being performed as efficiently as possible. High levels of maturity ensure that resources are being spent on the right things, and not being wasted on inefficient processes, like a billing department without a workflow that still uses paper for everything.

Maturity models work especially well for the corporate legal department, where many discrete tasks can be automated and savings analyzed, writes Inside Counsel. And, if you've mastered the Zen of maturity, you can move on to using legal analytics to actually add value to the company.

The Legal Department Isn't So Special

As the business world moves to computers, lawyers in the old guard may be especially resistant to using new technology to make the legal department more efficient. But the legal department's historically vaunted status can't insulate it forever; every other department has to report numbers, benchmarks, statistics, and otherwise justify its existence. Why should the legal department be any different?

The suspicion gets raised even more when data could be used to identify where to cut the fat out. Is it in raw overhead? Is it in payments to outside counsel? Is the legal department needlessly duplicating work that outside firms are doing? No one will know for sure unless the data are there, and the data won't be there until the legal department has put itself into a position where it can easily employ analytics to track trends and predict outcomes.

Work Smarter

So what's the point of all this business-speak? Believe it or not, "adding value" isn't just MBA jargon, and it's not the 21st century word for "cutting costs." Using data to determine legal department priorities does allow the department to cut costs -- especially when it comes to managing outside firms.

Analytics also transforms the legal department from a money-hole into a revenue generator by helping the corporation decide what its litigation, settlement, and intellectual property priorities should be. It helps the company make smarter legal decisions.

Which brings us back to maturity. If processes aren't structured and optimized, you have no idea if you're saving money by doing a task, like invoicing, in the most efficient way possible. You also don't have the data you need to feed the analytics beast, which uses data for fuel just like first-year associates use Red Bull.

At the end of the day, you want to be able to confidently say, "This task is worth doing, and we're doing it in the most efficient way possible." That's maturity.

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