When people think about data, they tend to over complicate it. Imagining huge spreadsheets filled with numbers and formulas and graphs. However, simple, high-level data has the ability to make a huge impact with very little effort at all. Just tracking a handful of key metrics arms you with a wealth of data which can help you identify your point of leverage and realise massive efficiencies within your department. 

What is a point of leverage?

A point of leverage is a possible change you can make that has a disproportionate impact to its size. If these things exist, then how do you find them? The Parato principle (or 80/20 rule as it is also known) tells us that 80% of effects come from 20% of the actions taken.

The easiest way to find that 20% that really counts, is measuring what you do in your department. This is easier said than done, especially when there's barely enough time to get work done. GCs often think you need legal tech to get started but you can do it with simple lists with tally tables.

In this post we're going to introduce you to some key ideas behind how we do it and show you how you can use this approach to focus on freeing up resources form your department to make time for the things that matter.

Using data to find your point of leverage: zooming in and out

In a legal department there are different layers of data and they help you piece together the story of where you can find points of leverage. This is a process of incremental discovery, so let's step through it. Let's take a look at a high-level example:

 

Legal work category Number of issues per month Av. time spent per issue Total time per month
General commercial contracts 47 0.75h 35.25
NDAs 34 0.5h 17
Employment 12 1h 12
Data protection 4 3h 12
Marketing 6 1h 6
      82.25

 

Looking at the top category by total time spent per month - General commercial contracts (45%) - the next question we want to ask is what is causing the most time within this category? And here we want to follow the chain further to find the problem points:


💡 General commercial contracts (45%) → Supplier contracts (60%) → Template 12 (35%) → Clause 3.5 (25%)

At each layer we can measure what proportion of their level they take up and compare them against everything else at that level and you can see the percentages at each level. So if we look at this we can see that clause 3.5 in Template 12, which is a Supplier contract is a good candidate for being the single most time consuming issue in the department.

 

Applying a fix at the right spot

What we do next is build a playbook entry for just this clause, because if we follow the 80/20 rule, this is the place to start, and by doing just this we save time on 35% of issues for that template. That one step gives us the biggest bang for buck in terms of time spent. We might then look at the top 3 to 5 clauses by volume and build playbook steps for just these.

We'll then zoom back out and see if there are any other high volume contracts one level up within Supplier contracts and repeat the same step. 

Many clients tell us they have playbooks that nobody uses. Lightweight playbooks are easier to make and easier to use. We have a visual workshop to jumpstart you with the process too.

Showing progress over time

These improvements can't exist in a vacuum. That's why it's important to continually track their effects on your day-to-day workstream. You could re-allocate the time you have gained to strategic work which you otherwise would have to shelf while you tackle clause 3.5. 

Compare before and after a change and link these improvements to key business goals:

  • Has the change helped increase deal velocity?
  • Has the number of deals falling through at contract stage decreased?
  • Has the legal team been able to work on regulatory research for international expansion?

Also, once these common sticking points are operationalised with a playbook, it is also far easier to outsource parts of that workstream as external counsel knows your position and can confidently negotiate on your behalf or work with internal stakeholders to that effect. This then compounds and more time is given back to the legal team to work on what will really move the needle for the business such as larger, more strategic projects.

 

Never enough time to get started

The table above takes about an hour to produce with your team and add estimates for volume and time spent. We've helped countless clients with a workshop like this and estimates work perfectly well to get started and help you find points of leverage. Over time you can actually capture data like this with tools, but that's a story for another day.

The lightweight playbooks that are built by focussing on the core issues first are also something  you can build in under and hour.

Remember: you only need to capture the top 20% of issues in the playbook to get 80% of the value out of it.

Let us know if you'd like help with either of these steps we'd love to help.