Our Lawyer in the Spotlight blogs are an opportunity to showcase the fantastic lawyers in our Legal Network and the incredible work they do for our clients, every day.
Kerem Alev is an experienced litigation solicitor specialising in commercial and property litigation disputes and has represented clients in over 400 trials and hearings.
He is a Senior Solicitor at The Brooke Consultancy, a forward-thinking and innovative firm that has abandoned the traditional partnership model and leverage tech to increase their efficiency and deliver better services to their client.
After speaking with over 50 GCs, we realised that most legal teams have to rework external legal advice to make it usable internally.
Many are at a loss as to how to get the commercial advice they need first time round. They just accept that it’s inevitable. But at Lexoo, we don’t accept that “it’s just the way it is”.
We’ve diagnosed that where legal advice goes wrong, is right at the outset, when work isn’t scoped effectively.
Why it’s time to start scoping
For many industries, diving into a project without scoping is unthinkable. How can a journalist write a Pulitzer Prize winning story without first knowing the facts? How can business consultants advise without knowing the context of the problem they’re solving?
However, in the legal industry scoping is often overlooked.
The current standard is a short cover note of what you’re looking for, but this lacks the depth required to deliver what you really need. The deliverable needs to be designed with the commercial purpose in mind, but without scoping the matter fully, the true value of the work can be completely missed. This leads to time wasted reworking the advice, delays for your commercial team and inflated fees where the work is not refined.
At Lexoo, by effectively scoping the work our clients send to us, we’ve been able to dramatically improve the commerciality of the advice they receive, erase the time spent reworking advice and deliver the work faster. These are just a handful of the benefits that effective scoping can provide.
How we do it
Scoping doesn’t need to be a complicated process. It can be as simple as asking yourself “the five Ws”.
First published on the 6th of July 2018
How to be (even) more efficient
Lexoo CEO Daniel van Binsbergen spends a lot of time speaking with general counsel about their team structures and how best to procure external resources. In this Crafty Counsel video, he shares his top four tips on how in-house legal teams can become (even) more efficient.
Outsource or in-house? A quick decision tree to help you decide
We hear from lots of GCs and legal teams who’d like to have a clear process for team members to determine which matters work should be outsourced and which should be kept in-house…
So we got a couple of GC friends to put together a basic framework for this decision making process (We’d love to hear your feedback on it!)
Individuals and teams across the legal industry face radical change in the way they operate over the next decade.
Organisations are grappling with tech-driven change and need the in-house legal function to keep up by innovating and being commercial, in everything they do.
This means adopting and integrating the right tech, facilitating (or at least not hindering!) rapid growth and international expansion, and avoiding the Cost-Center label.
Just as importantly as tech (and going hand-in-hand), will be the implementation of great processes, ensuring teams have clear procedures in place for submitting requests and receiving what they need.
All this might sound pretty challenging and time-consuming, but there are many easy(ish) things you can do to get the ball rolling.
We’ve curated this list to get you started, looking at tools that can help streamline work, improve comms, put templates in place to enable teams to self-serve, and help legal ops cope with demand
For contract management, Juro has a ton of great features. Comprehensive contract creation, e-signing, and commenting capabilities are a given. But what’s particularly exceptional about this Series-A backed legaltech platform is its AI-powered contract analytics.
Its built-in machine-learning helps identify recurring sticking points in contract negotiations, as well as revealing patterns in negotiations, identifying time taken to complete, and finding unusual contract terms.
In-house teams can also export useful data, analyse completion speeds, and understand recurring bottlenecks, for example, to identify if a particular contract term is causing lengthy enquiries or discussions.
Juro is a paid enterprise tool, so might be one for more advanced (or ambitious) teams…
The “G Suite”, a fancy name for the business tools Google’s developers churn out, is another great tool for teams looking to be smarter and collaborate more.
Along with the obvious google tools, what’s most useful for productivity and collaboration is its microsoft office alternative: Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
These tools are much better at fostering collaboration, tracking work, and are more secure and reliable than document sharing.
Even better, its free offering is comprehensive.
Legal Ops could easily draft and share simple contracts and other basic documents for use by colleagues in Google Drive
Jira is a great project management and issue tracking tool created for the more agile teams.
Each issue or matter can be tracked through its lifecycle, with tickets and tasks available to team members to follow and contribute.
We like it as a really effective low-budget way to control and monitor workflow and productivity for legal project management.
Like Google, it has pretty great free options available to solo GCs or small teams, and even when it starts scaling out it’s pretty modest at $7-$14 per user, depending on volume.
Loved and loathed messaging platform Slack is next up. A great alternative to email that allows teams to keep conversations organised by topic, task, or anything you can think of.
Other useful features like pinning files, and the ability to leave and join conversations where appropriate, give teams the ability to reduce needless communication, which gets a big thumbs up from us
Slack keeps everyone who needs to be in the loop updated and is a clear record of progress and deadlines.
Although it can be a bit unmanageable if your chats aren’t structured clearly or if individual communication preferences aren’t clarified.
Slack is free for small businesses, but it’s paid option is pretty affordable.
Last but not least is Trello, the most famous (and free-ish) KanBan tool. Great for those in need of a simple, easy to use project management tool.
If you’re not familiar with KanBan and why it’s such a popular process management system, check out this short video gives a good introduction Kanban 101
Trello enables teams to track work, prioritise, and work together on projects.
Check them out and let us know what you think below in the comments or email us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear about your favourite tools for managing your legal function, too!
There are more opportunities than ever for lawyers exiting big, city firms to seek out opportunities for self-employment, roles at boutique firms or with LegalTech providers, like Lexoo. Lifestyle factors like child-rearing responsibilities or other caregiving roles are also driving this push for different ways of practising.
Most Lexoo lawyers have fled city firm jobs, choosing to work with Lexoo’s clients, such as in-house legal teams requiring bespoke advice or on longer term projects, instead. Our platform enables male and female lawyers around the globe to work flexibly and generate a stellar client base.
We’re proud that nearly 40% of our UK-based lawyers are women, and are particularly excited that the 2020 Women in Law Awards has recognised their excellence in its nominations. Congratulations to Hannah Beko and Edyta Knizewska, and all the impressive nominees!
Both Hannah and Edyta decided to take a different approach to the conventional career path of a lawyer; Hannah transitioned from a traditional law firm into self-employment, and Edyta has built her own firm. Being Lexoo lawyers enables them to power their businesses and supplement their client base.
Through Lexoo, Hannah controls her workflow, selecting how much work she wants, and when. This enables her to spend more time with her family while simultaneously growing her second business, coaching lawyers on wellbeing and business development.
Hannah, a Women of the Year nominee, recommends Lexoo particularly for those that want to build up their caseload with a broad range of clients. She particularly emphasises that Lexoo is great for parents who may not be as able to network traditionally, or those who don’t like being loud on social media.
Edyta’s nomination was as a rising star for her entrepreneurial spirit in the Women in Law Awards. She values the freedom of building her firm, on an independent timeline, something that Lexoo has facilitated. Clearly, this isn’t without significant discipline, and Edyta says that she can now do her work more efficiently in fewer hours.
Lexoo has connected her with high-calibre clients, enabling her to have worldwide exposure. Edyta really adores the technological innovation that this brings.
Lexoo is now 6 years old.
We’ve grown from an idea in our CEO’s mind, to a seed company with a team of 5–6 people, to a leading European legal tech company with a team of over 20 people at post-Series A.
With all that growth came a need to change our company values.
About a year ago we realised that our current values no longer reflected where we felt we were at as a company and as a team. So we started the process of updating our values to reflect our evolution.
The Importance of Authentic Values
Having a set of company values helps to unify teams around a common understanding, a way of doing things, an identity. This helps with multiple areas across the company — from hiring and progression, to productivity and motivation.
But these values are only effective if they feel authentic and representative of company culture, rather than a generic corporate statement.
How We Did It
There were a few things we knew we wanted to do with this process: we liked the original values that we had (growth mindset, empathy and drive), but we felt they needed to be more detailed and more reflective of Lexoo’s identity and culture. We also knew we wanted the change to come from the entire team and be a collaborative process.
The first step was to determine what qualities, characteristics and behaviours we felt were really representative of our culture, how we work and who we are at Lexoo.
We first completed qualitative interviews with different members across the team, covering a range of departments, tenures and seniorities, to get an accurate picture of the company from different people on the team.
From those interviews, the next step was to identify the common themes. I reviewed all the interviews and grouped various statements and keywords into categories. This resulted in a document of about 20 different qualities and characteristics.
All-Hands Interactive Workshop
From this document of 20 qualities, I designed a workshop for our company offsite to ‘add some meat on the bones’ of the different values.
We split into small groups and each group was allocated a two or three different values. For each of their allocated values, teams were tasked with drafting a declarative statement and identifying three behavioural examples of how that value could be demonstrated.
This step was really valuable as it allowed us to really define what each quality meant to us as a team, rather than a textbook definition, and further we were able to harness the whole team’s creativity in identifying the behaviours we wanted to value as a company.
The Final Values
The final step was turning the results of the workshop into memorable, actionable values.
From the themes and behavioural statements, we grouped similar items into one of three categories: head (intellect), heart (emotion) or hands (behaviour). The head/heart/hands framework is a tool that can be used in a variety of ways for change management. We thought the framework was an elegant way of categorising our values, and we now have one dedicated to how we think, one to how we work, and another to how we relate to each other.
We now have three declarative value statements that are easy to remember:
1. We believe in continuous growth and improvement, not perfection (head)
2. We remember that we’re all human (heart)
3. We get our hands dirty (hands)
For each Value, we also defined:
- what it means to us
- why it’s important to us
- how we live it
Finally, to make the Values actionable, we’ve incorporated our new Values into
- our hiring process: we ask interviewees specific questions related to each Value. Candidates who embody these traits are more likely to be successful on our team.
- our performance reviews: all team members are assessed on their demonstration of each Value. Working with these Values is what allows us to work effectively as a team.
Learnings & Takeaways
- Getting buy in from leadership and/or senior management is essential to this process.
- Make sure to involve the whole team
- Less is more — it’s better to have a few clear, authentic core values that really speak to your identity as a company, than a laundry list of generic statements that no one can remember.
Every year legal teams are expected to deliver more and more without much variation in budget. For many, this feels like an impossible task as resources are stretched to their limits but there are a few simple things you can do to make your legal team get more value for legal spend and be more productive.
1) Get your house in order
The most cost-effective way of getting work done is to keep it in-house. That’s why it’s crucial that legal teams do all they can to optimise their in-house operations and ensure maximum output.
However, a third of in-house lawyers that we’ve spoken with report that lack of processes and inefficiencies pose a significant challenge in their role. Not only is it frustrating but in-house lawyers can’t afford the lost time that they inevitably cause. After all, time is money!
Time saved on back and forth with colleagues, managing a never-ending flow of contracts, and answering the same question for the 105th time this month gives much-needed time back to your team to increase their output.
By tracking the work that comes to the legal team or the questions they’re asked for a few weeks or months will identify the biggest drains on their time so you can start streamlining. Once you’ve assessed what people are most commonly asking you for, you can start getting proactive about these requests and enable the business to self-serve.
2) Empower your business to self-serve
Things like NDA and sales contract templates can be made available for teams to self-serve when paired with a playbook or SLA on when to come to legal with these routine contracts. Although this requires upfront investment, it will unlock invaluable time for your team that would normally be spent on repetitive tasks.
Lastly, looking back on the most commonly asked questions of legal can enable you to create a knowledge bank for the rest of the business to consult for FAQs before contacting the legal department.
3) Scope what you outsource
Many lawyers rightly question the value of external counsel when a 10-page memo lands in their inbox and they then have to spend an hour translating it for Dave in sales who actually needs the information. Whether it’s the format delivered (a 10-page essay memo vs a few bullet points) or being oblivious to the commercial context, it takes away from the value that external counsel provides.
A large part of this is down to work not being properly scoped beforehand. By setting parameters for external counsel from the start, you remove the risk that they go beyond the scope and start running up a hefty bill, or provide unusable advice. By requiring yourself to ask critical questions such as what stakeholders are involved in this matter, or what the desired practical outcome of the work is, i.e. to enable Dave to sell in to a new country, you can prevent these frustrations.
4) Assess your firms for quality and cost-efficiency
Lastly, legacy relationships with expensive law firms which have some far-off origin and just potter on unquestioned are a big issue in some legal departments. In order to really take back control of your legal spend, you need to assess the firms you use and see if their costs are justified, and if the work they provide is of a high enough standard.
If you find yourself going back and forth with a certain firm on the same matters or have to spend hours reworking a document they were responsible for, it’s time to think about whether these firms really deliver the value you pay them for, be it their expertise and knowledge or the fact you don’t have the capacity internally.
Think about the last time you took on a legal project that was cross-border or involved several lawyers and what it cost to have that work completed…
Did you know that roughly 30% of the work you were billed for could have been automated with tech and better process?
McKinsey Global Institute’s report on workforce automation found that in around 60% of occupations, automation can reduce at least one-third of the constituent activities.
So, why should law be any different?
To put it bluntly, traditional law firms have no incentive to change this; no incentive to learn about (or develop) new technology, or implement processes that will save everyone time, because the more time spent on a project, the greater the billable hours.
It’s no secret that at Lexoo we’re always looking to improve: the legal industry, the tech we use, our internal processes. Everything about what we’re doing is an iterative work in progress, and fundamentally, this also applies to the way our lawyers work, too.
For the past 6 months, Lexoo has been conducting customer development interviews with our clients to understand the pain points regularly experienced by general counsels. Time and time again, two particular points have come up: