1. Hire / Get additional people
2. Use tools & automation
3. Introduce Legal Operations
4. Delegate & collaborate
5. Data insights
How can you as GC make a strong case for increasing the legal headcount? By making it a business case. Inhouse legal counsels are an investment for your company and as you well know, lawyers are expensive.
Your stakeholders will need to understand why the current situation is unsustainable before they’ll pay to change it.
So before asking to increase the headcount in your team, a good place to start is to build a business case. Look at the overall goals for the business. Which elements of these goals will have a big impact on the legal team and your workload?
Conversely, what will it take for your team to support and help deliver on those goals? Will it require a full time legal hire to support the goal of establishing 15 new offices in Asia, for instance? And if this new hire is allocated to that project, how will it then impact e.g. the sales team and their efforts?
These are some of the aspects you should consider, prepare for and have the answers to. In other words: do your research before approaching the leadership team with a hiring request.
Another piece of advice: it’s always a good idea to have a positive outlook. So make your case from a positive perspective, e.g. how an increase in the legal headcount can help achieve the business’ goals (instead of e.g. complaining about the workload).
There are many tools today that can help transform your legal team’s way of working. Automating manual and time-consuming processes can bring so many improvements and benefits.
Not only will it allow you to scale but it will also increase your team’s motivation. Imagine that the team doesn’t have to redline the same NDA over and over again. Or have to gather information about your data processors anymore. No more emailing back and forth with vendors, requesting information, etc.
Aside from these clearcut efficiency benefits, your team will also receive more data and be able to build reports that'll help you make better business decisions, plus create controls to help manage risks automatically.
So how to get started? To prioritize your different options, you may want to start where the impact can be felt the most. Ask yourself: what type of assignment has the biggest (negative) impact on the team’s motivation?
If you’re able to relieve a pain point from your team through tools or automations, your team will be happier and more motivated which has a direct, positive impact on your ability to scale.
Legal Operations or “Legal Ops” is a function that is being introduced more and more in legal teams around the world these days, especially in the US.
In a US context, the saying is that you should start introducing Legal Ops once you have 5 members or more on your legal team. I’ll say that you should start considering hiring a Legal Ops person if you’re focused on growing and scaling efficiently.
Hiring for Legal Ops can act as a force multiplier in scaling your existing resources.
Delegating assignments that aren’t legal work can be another way to scale your team and its operations. Oftentimes, legal teams end up with a lot of assignments that strictly speaking aren't “legal” work.
Gathering security documentation for the IT team for them to review the security level of a vendor isn’t necessarily a legal task. Handling price negotiations in regards to a contract isn’t necessarily the legal team’s responsibility.
Many of these tasks are incredibly time consuming and often fall outside the scope of what the legal team is measured on. But these tasks are often accepted because you want to be supportive and help the business.
(We could start a whole conversation about boundary setting but that’s perhaps for another time.)
If your team is already overworked, then perhaps assignments like these should be delegated.
Another example could be standard changes to e.g. the company’s NDA or Terms of Service. By working with other teams, e.g. the Commercial Operations team, some of these tasks could easily be delegated. This could free up a lot of resources in your team and improve the collaboration between Legal and Commercial.
The motivation in your team might also increase as a result of not having to do these manual, non-legal tasks any longer. So collaboration and delegation can be another key to scaling your team.
Having a good understanding of the legal team’s workload, performance, types of tasks, which departments require the most assistance from the legal team, etc. is one of the most important factors for you to scale your legal team.
Data insights become even more crucial as your team grows and scales. Because if you don’t know what your team is spending its time on, how do you know where to improve and optimize?
Data is crucial in helping you make your case. You have to know how your team is doing – from budgets and spending to contracts, cases, and outcomes.
One of the things you need to do is to build a framework for your data analytics. This will give you the ability to create actionable insights so you know where to prioritize your team’s efforts at all times. This is also a way to scale.
The amount of contracts reviewed by each lawyer, number of contracts requested by each business-person or team, how much time it takes to turn around a contract, outside counsel spend per firm, practice area and month are relatively straightforward data-points that most inhouse teams already have access to without implementing a new software.
Deriving actionable insights from the pre-existing data can also increase your team’s appetite for more data.
If you have existing tools, they can provide the basic data for you to get started. Spend, for instance, can be an easy place to start because it's data that most legal teams have in some form. If you don’t have it, your finance team certainly will.
Moreover, data can give you the ammunition you need when arguing for new hires and tools and is in many ways a critical element for growing and scaling your legal team.