11 January 2023

Dashboards and metrics for the modern General Counsel

Insights Resources

In October 2022, Lawcadia and LEx360 hosted a live event to discuss and showcase their latest collaboration, The GC’s Ultimate Dashboard. With high-profile senior General Counsels and Chief Legal Officers in attendance, it was an opportunity to discover how legal teams were responding to the challenging economic environment and their approach to metrics and data. (Read more about these insights in our recent article General Counsel respond to the challenging economic environment.)

This article explores the key themes of metrics, dashboards, and reports for the modern General Counsel, informed by leading legal operations consultant and former General Counsel Mo Zain Ajaz.

Elevating the role of metrics and data

Legal is in a unique position to be the command centre for insights across the business, explained Mr Ajaz.

“If we get the command centre functioning well to capture the insights we come across in the work that we do and the interactions we have with stakeholders, we can bring valuable insights that can help drive and course correct the business we serve,” he said.

“The problems that I see is that General Counsels are unclear about the role they play, they are often not expected to bring business wide insights to the table, nor do they have the processes in place to establish a functioning command centre.

“The desire to bring together a set of dashboards which uncover insights is there, but operationalising this is a core impediment.”

“However, it is our belief that as the Finance Director does, the General Counsel can pull those data points into dashboards, something that will be valuable and can be shared with the board or the C-suite,” said Mr Ajaz.

When considering the barriers for General Counsel and why there is still work to be done in this space, Mr Ajaz shared that “getting started” and determining “what to measure” are the hurdles.

“You don’t want to make data and dashboarding a ‘job’ but make it a by-product of the business-as-usual work and processes that are part of the legal function,” he explained.

“In isolation, we can have some really good processes and good dialogue with the business partners, but if you haven’t got the technology to back it, or if you haven’t got the processes to pull that together, then it becomes a cumbersome task.”

General Counsels are under pressure to prove value to their organisations

The majority of General Counsel will say that demonstrating value is key, and the scale of the ‘demonstration’ aspect depends on the organisation’s pressures, observed Mr Ajaz.

“But if we get this right in terms of the support and investment, the way the legal department is viewed, the growth for the legal department, the insights that exist within the organisation, and the General Counsel’s position with the board, all these things are going to be value creation points that need to be demonstrated and taken forward,” he said.

“The General Counsel and the legal function should be in a place where valuing contracts, risks and processes, a law firm improvement matrix, for example, should change the conversations.

“It is no longer about highlighting the tasks that the legal department completes, it is more about how we can optimise the business processes using the insights we come across. If the General Counsel can present these insights on major deals, bottlenecks across the organisation, risks, and threats across the horizon, legal speed to value can be achieved, and that’s when real legal operations exist,” said Mr Ajaz.

“General Counsels are under pressure in the current climate; by using a command centre type approach, they can really demonstrate the value for their business and their team’s contribution. A great way of doing that is through dashboards,” he outlined.

Start with the end in mind

According to Mr Ajaz, there is no point in building something with technology if you haven’t understood the problem, or understood the need, the reason you’re doing it.

“Every CEO has a vision, every organisation has an expectation of the legal department, and every GC has their priorities, risks and opportunities – so it is vital to start with an understanding of that context as that will help define what needs to be measured,” he said.

Ajaz explains that the legal function can be understood as a system with inputs, processes and outputs. These can all be measured and optimised to enable data-driven and informed decisions, improve workflow and for the team’s growth.

“Essentially, the dashboards are the outputs of the workflows that exist within the legal function,” he said.

LEx360 and Lawcadia have developed 7 dashboards as prototypes, or templates, that take the key stages within the legal function’s system and use workflows and data inputs to help the General Counsel understand the health of the function. Each of these are briefly explored.

The overview

An overview dashboard is a collection of the core metrics or most frequently needed reports that the General Counsel will refer to or share with their board.

According to Mr Ajaz, there are some core metrics that every General Counsel needs to report on. However, the overview dashboard should be configurable and reflect the priorities, risks, and goals unique to the organisation.

Matter intake, allocation, and self-service

A General Counsel must understand the source of work coming into the legal department and how it is allocated.

Key metrics that can be measured and reported on include which business units are instructing the legal team, the type and quantity of legal work allocated internally and briefed externally, and the spread of work over a time period, including any seasonality trends.

The insights generated can prompt conversations and further investigations. For example, if business units are not as active in engaging the legal team, it may be an opportunity to deepen relationships and evaluate any associated risk.

Consideration could also be given to reviewing the strategic right-sourcing of legal work – is the right work being done by the right resources internally and externally?

With the relevant data to hand, meaningful internal business partner conversations about work getting done – make versus buy – can be an opportunity to review or change the resourcing approach for the legal function.

Increasingly in the modern environment, there is an opportunity for some legal activities to be made available with a ‘self-service’ capability, such as automated documents and agreements or the provision of training to key departments. Putting a value on the self-service activities as the business utilises them helps demonstrate support for the work invested in setting up these capabilities and contributes to the cumulative total of the value that the legal function is performing in the organisation.

Matter analytics, internal service delivery and team capacity

Most General Counsel will acknowledge that their legal team is their most valuable resource, and in an environment where finding and retaining staff is challenging, it is essential to have a good understanding of how the legal function is performing at a macro and micro level.

Mo Zain Ajaz outlined important observations and recommendations for the capture and use of data as it relates to the internal legal department:

    1. The GC needs to understand the work that comes into their legal function and what is allocated internally and externally.
    2. This can help to make sure that everyone has the right level of work, that the right people in the team are doing the work that is best suited for them, and that it is a fit with their development aspirations.
    3. Data can help spot issues around well-being and where individuals might be struggling, have capacity, or are completing tasks that can be delivered by automation or through a ‘self-service’ capability.
    4. When the legal department does work for multiple business units, the internal business clients often don’t know what else the legal department has committed to, and it is vital to be able to demonstrate what the workload is internally and externally.
    5. It can be helpful to routinely seek and gain feedback on internal service delivery, as this can identify development opportunities and be a basis to have good conversations with team members about growth aspirations and career goals.
    6. Monitoring and measuring performance for growth will help the General Counsel make informed decisions and help them have their team performing and doing the value-adding work that they want to be doing.

Overall, matter and team performance metrics can help a legal function continuously improve and enable the General Counsel to demonstrate their value to the organisation. Data and metrics do not de-personalise the legal function’s capabilities but can enhance internal business partner relationships and foster a rich growth environment for team members.

External spend analytics

Access to accurate and relevant spend data is crucial for the modern legal department.

According to Mr Ajaz, “It is important to have fact-based discussions with your law firms, not driven by the mood of the General Counsel or other factors going on in the relationship. Having clear and transparent data and reports available can help to shift the focus away from a subjective discussion towards one that is fact-based.”

“Poor buying behaviours on the part of the legal department will also come through in the data, such as lack of sufficient instructions, the wrong firm being briefed, or scope creep. Conversations can then happen to address this.

“Good data reporting will show the breakdown of fee types, initial budgets, changes to the scope of work and revised budget, capture reasons for changing scope, and identify repeat offenders and those who don’t have good project management,” he said.

At a minimum, spend analysis should provide an understanding of spend by law firm and whether they are getting the right work and the right amount of work. Also, analysing how the legal department engages with the firms is critical, such as direct briefs, RFPs, or high-volume contracts.

Litigation and major projects

Some matters that the legal team work on are critical to the organisation, such as major litigation. As such, the General Counsel needs to ensure that project management on those matters is working.

“Law firms have got their project management tools, but the General Counsel needs some of that data reported back into the organisation,” said Mr Ajaz.

“General Counsel always struggle to get their law firms to give a good breakdown, to understand the previous projects that have gone out, including trends, milestones, value, cost, and what law firms did.  A dashboard that looks at litigation and major projects allows for appropriate comparisons and insights,” he said.

Automating the compilation of reports can also be a significant time-saver for General Counsels that are required to regularly report on major litigation projects across organisational jurisdictions. Instead of manually seeking out data sets and compiling reports and spreadsheets, workflow automation can be used to request the information required and automatically collate and update the litigation register and monitor associated risks in one dashboard.

Law firm management

Law firms are a vital part of the extended enterprise and their contribution and performance isn’t always recognised. Measuring, capturing and visualising data related to law firm performance and the work that their lawyers do can provide constructive feedback and identify any opportunities for improvement.

Measuring and reporting on the value-adds provided by law firms is also important. Law firms can spend a lot of money (including time and resources) for a client, and often the clients don’t value, recognise or acknowledge this. For example, law firms routinely provide training, updates on regulations, necessary horizon scanning, access to meeting rooms, introductions, and more. These are all tangible and intangible value-adds and should be reportable.

“If we fail to measure those value-adds, then it is not a true reflection of the client and law firm relationship,” said Mr Ajaz.

“A metric we like to use is the ratio of value-adds to total throughput, or spend with each firm, shown as a percentage. This allows you to compare law firms and the contribution they are making and how much they are valuing the relationship,” he said.

“Diversity and inclusion also commonly sit outside what would be considered a law firm management metric. However, I am keen to bring this into the conversation about how we work and what they said they would do versus what they did. Having this information pulled through, and part of the routine reporting is important,” he outlined.

“General Counsels in their buying position should be able to push this further than they’re doing at the moment, and data and metrics will help that,” said Mr Ajaz.

Contract register

Many organisations have invested or are investing in contract management systems, however, often the appropriate level of reporting needs to be addressed.

“The data reporting and dashboarding is vital when it comes to contracts, especially having a key contract register and capturing key obligations,” said Mr Ajaz.

Legal functions at a minimum should be looking to capture metrics on contract types, entities, counterparties, turnaround time including response time, contract value, costs per transaction and key obligations. Having this information accessible, available, and up-to-date is important.

Implementing dashboards

According to Mo Zain Ajaz, every General Counsel has something they want to report, so dashboards must be unique to each legal department. However, having access to a set of prototypes or template dashboards is an excellent place to start, along with these three steps:

    1. Start with understanding your priorities as a General Counsel, your team and business, and your reporting to the C-suite. These must be understood because they help define what needs to be measured.
    2. Identify which dashboards and template reports align with what you need and identify the workflows and processes that can be configured to meet your requirements. The workflows will be used to pull data to update the dashboards automatically.
    3. Configure the workflows and dashboards and get your team on board.

Successful legal transformation and change also requires a focus on “people” (change, skills, motivation) as well as “process” and “technology”.

So, it is vital to ensure that you have the right level of support in place, either internally or via an external consultant, to help with change management for successful outcomes.

Conclusion

The modern General Counsel can and will step up to deliver the right levels of data, reports and dashboards that the C-suite and leadership are now seeking out. Fortunately, much of the thinking and groundwork has already been done, and GCs can now benefit from this.

View the live event recording – The GC’s Ultimate Dashboard

The GC’s Ultimate Dashboard

The GC’s Ultimate Dashboard, a solution developed by Lawcadia and LEx360, provides best practice reporting dashboards that deliver powerful and practical insights for the modern General Counsel.

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