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July 9 2020

How In-house Legal Teams are Innovating

Industry Insights

Harry Mellor

Harry Mellor

How In-house Legal Teams are Innovating

We were pleased to welcome an excellent panel of speakers to join last week’s GC call in collaboration with LexisNexis and Radius Law, including Dinesh Jadav, Director of Legal Operations at Royal Mail; Manu Kanwar, Co-founder of LexSolutions; and Madeleine Graham, Head of Product Design at LexisNexis. The discussion continued to build on the theme of legal innovation within the in-house community, with the panel sharing excellent insights from their own experiences.

How Royal Mail considers the value of its legal team

Recognising the value of an in-house legal team is an oft-discussed, but hard to articulate topic. However, at Royal Mail, a few key strategies have been implemented to allow the value of their legal team to be considered in a tangible way. 

Moving from demand led to supply led 

As noted by Dinesh, Royal Mail were looking to alter the way they work even before the pandemic, with the need for change being accelerated in light of recent events. This has led to the company’s operating model changing significantly, with the legal team being at the forefront of helping to manifest that change. In terms of engaging the business and changing the way that Royal Mail works, Dinesh states that they are implementing an organisational change from being ‘demand led’ to ‘supply led’. By doing so, they are allowing their legal team to decide how it will support the business and how best it can add value, instead of the business dictating the role that the legal team plays. To drive this change, technology, knowledge banks and tool kits are all being utilised.

Balancing estimations

As a business of around 140,000 people, naturally employment tribunals and disputes crop up. However, the in-house team quantitatively demonstrates its value by calculating the estimated costs and comparing these to the actual legal costs of the dispute. Additionally, when Royal Mail are litigated against, the exact damage to the business is tracked. Royal Mail are also unique in the sense that they are one of the only private companies in the UK that are able to carry out their criminal prosecutions through their own team, without having to rely on the CPS. All of these factors allow the legal team to accurately quantify the costs they are saving the business. To monitor these consistently, every quarter a balance sheet is produced of both internal and external legal costs which allows the net position of the legal team to be shown to the CFO and COO.

Insights from LexSolutions

LexSolutions is a London-based legal operations consultancy offering resourcing and innovation solutions to a range of law firms and in-house teams. For Manu, the need to separate the business impacts (making sure daily tasks are completed), strategic impacts (future-proofing processes through innovation and continuous improvement), and cultural impacts (how and why certain processes are carried out, plus their effects on employees) of the legal team has become increasingly important in recent months.

Thrown overboard

When speaking to clients and other peers, Manu found that the whole process of going into the pandemic has been akin to being thrown overboard from a ship: “The first thing was to get our head above water and to make sure business imperatives were being dealt with, despite the adverse external factors. Once everyone was working well and the proper technology was in place to carry out tasks, it was then important to consider future implications. Here, we are treading water, which is necessary for survival but isn’t sustainable in the long term, so we have to think about future strategy. However, this is not a linear process and things happen that will mean we end up underwater again. The key here is to step back and reflect before moving forwards. Business priorities will change, the way you work will alter, and the macroeconomics will be affected. This allows a closer alignment with the business to be developed, and it can be effective to consider what strategies have the most impact with the least amount of output.”

Driving value

Whilst the examples mentioned by Dinesh are unique to Royal Mail, Manu says that they can nevertheless be applied universally to a range of businesses: “We have a program called ‘Value D to the power of 3’ which is about driving value for the business, delivering value for the legal team and deriving value as individuals. So it needs to be a 360 degree value to work effectively by delivering for the business, the individuals and the legal team.” The items to consider for other teams looking at delivering value are resourcing, efficiency, culture, data and technology. For any different team, they will be prioritised differently according to the needs of that business.

O Shaped Lawyer

The O Shaped Lawyer looks to drive the soft skills that lawyers need for the future. The mantra is ‘people first and lawyers next’. This is looking to help people develop those skills that will drive relationships, be more business-focused, empathetic and collaborative in the long term. It also considers how in-house teams and external counsel work together and how lawyers are trained during their legal education. The ‘O’ is being optimistic, taking ownership, being open minded, creating opportunity and being original. These are the assets that will deliver impact in the longer term.

Data, technology and law

For Madeleine, having a competency in data analytics is also becoming increasingly important when thinking about value-driving behaviours: “The legal technology that we have will reduce the time spent on repetitive tasks. This, in turn, frees up time for data analysis to be carried out and allows legal teams to show their value to their organisation more easily, and allows the team to start being seen as a strategic partner.”

It is also important to consider what data you already have and what you want to show moving forwards. Dashboards are a useful tool here as they allow for workflow management of teams and deadlines. They can also be used to show what is going on at any specific point, and how things are being turned around. Another key point to consider is the budget and how this is being allocated; you can quite easily look at the benchmarks of what a mean and mode size legal team looks like for revenue and employees. For Dinesh, this has been practical in recent times to show how valuable the internal legal team is, and showing this against other legal teams is useful information to present to the board.