The biggest mistake we made at Lexoo and what in-house legal teams can learn from it

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As a team of ex-BigLaw lawyers ourselves, we know that the traditional law firm model is broken. It just isn’t set up to solve the key problems most GCs have: needing to have all the answers internally, not blocking commercial progress, protecting the company from risks, demonstrating value, controlling costs, and looking to the future. 

Over the years as CEO of Lexoo, I developed a pretty solid understanding of the areas where there was room to improve on the model. However, this led to a different problem: where to start. I didn’t have a solid prioritisation framework to help me make those decisions, and it led to all kinds of problems:

  • Starting lots of different projects, but not following through enough to know if they worked

  • Getting distracted by random ‘good’ ideas: in reality a lot of the ideas were good, but were they really the best ideas for us to be working on?

  • Thoughts like: “our competitors are launching X, should we do something like that as well?”

Interestingly enough, in talking to GCs I learned in-house teams face a very similar problem. The sheer amount of business-as-usual (BAU) work means there’s very little time to work on strategic initiatives. 

At the same time, in a survey we ran earlier this year, 62% of GCs indicated they wanted to adopt tech tools in the next 12 months. GCs are pitched by various legal tech providers every week – but where to start? How to decide what to pursue, and what to ignore, given the little time available for strategic projects?

After doing a lot of research and experimenting with a few different frameworks we got to a much better place. We now have a prioritisation framework in place that enables everyone in the business to know exactly what we’re focussing on, and why.

Our framework utilises objectives and key results (OKRs), ICE scoring, minimum viable products, and smoke testing. These concepts are well developed in the startup world, and have made it much more transparent and objective as to why we’re deciding to pursue one idea over the other.

Objectives and Key Results

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) is a popular management strategy pioneered by Google for goal setting within organisations. The purpose of OKRs are to connect company, team, and personal goals to measurable results while having all team members and leaders work together in one, unified direction.

Using objectives and key results enables teams to prioritise and decide 1) through which lens to judge various ideas and 2) what constitutes success. I.e. what is the strategic priority?”

ICE Scoring

ICE score prioritisation, like OKRs, has been a vital tool in helping us at Lexoo focus on the right type of work.

It can prove very useful by enabling teams to rank various ideas based on a blend of “impact” on our ultimate goal, “confidence” that the idea will lead to the impact and “ease” of implementing the solution. It also makes it easier for the wider team to understand why some ideas are not taken further.

MVPs & Smoke Testing

Smoke tests are used by tech companies and startups to determine if ideas are viable enough to proceed with further work or testing. Using lean smoke tests or MVPs (minimum viable products) enables us to try and test ideas without investing too much time or capacity into something that might fail, or end up being different.

This week, we published a free report that explores the framework in a lot more detail, how we use them at Lexoo, and how in-house teams could use a similar approach to prioritise their strategic projects.

Prioritisation is hard. Most companies struggle with it, and so did we. I’ve found the mentioned frameworks tremendously helpful and I hope you do as well. 

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