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How to design a legal intake process that end users love

Despite the numerous benefits of Intake - it makes legal teams more efficient, well-informed, and able to deliver better service to their organization - it has been met with some resistance from both lawyers and end users. Why the push back? Human nature. It requires people to work differently. Let’s take a close look at what those changes entail.

Intake is a means by which work is received by the legal team and assigned to the correct in-house attorney/member. Intake is generally received directly from the business, for example someone from outside the legal team can create a matter request for legal assistance. That request is then put into an Intake queue for the in-house team to see, triage, and appropriately assign. Intake request forms ensure that the person who needs legal assistance gives the right information to the legal team.

Theo Kapodistrias, General Counsel (GC) of UpGuard, is an Intake fan. He first introduced LawVu to the in-house team at his previous job at University of Tasmania, starting with matters and contracts (which includes Intake) to help make it easier for the rest of the business to make legal requests for services. 

It has become apparent to Theo that what is critical to the success of Intake is designing it to work for both the end user and the lawyers. “Being open and upfront, and then working with them to design what it is because, obviously, teams don't want their people wasting time in a system that isn't going to benefit them,” he says.

Clarity is what differentiates a user-friendly design from one that frustrates. Intake should be formatted to provide legal with the right information through the right questions, allowing them to assist promptly on a matter. This information will be structured around categories, e.g. are we dealing with a contract, an intellectual property issue, a dispute, an HR issue, or a general legal question? By categorizing what the user wants at the first step, Intake forms can be tailored to provide very specific questions that are easy for the user to understand. “It's going to feel like an obligation that people don't want to do,” is Theo’s blunt assessment, adding, “It has to be practically really useful for the person to understand what they need to provide to legal so that  legal is better able to assist them.” 

Theo harnesses the metrics provided to the in-house team by Intake to drive better future outcomes and responses. The data Intake collates determines the volume of matters coming through legal - from where in the business and in which area of law. “I get an idea of who in the organization needs more help compared to others,  and then if one area isn't using legal services as much [as they should be], I am able to track and understand where it's coming from,” he says. Metrics give a broad overview of what the legal team is really doing, allowing them to integrate tools, hire or create knowledge, and share information that can free up time in condensed areas of work.

Intake ultimately serves the legal team, creating a more organized and efficient system that provides lawyers  with information for legal requests upfront and can action matters quickly. This does benefit the end users. Although they may not like logging requests through an Intake ticket system, preferring to email lawyers as they are used to doing , ultimately a more efficient legal team means faster response for end users. 

Adoption of Intake is often the biggest hurdle. To make things as easy as possible, GC should demonstrate to their wider business the reciprocal value that Intake provides. It also means changing communication channels. Theo notes that communicating with legal over Slack, teams and other communications platforms has innate risk involved as messages can get lost in the constant stream of notifications. Whereas filing a legal intake request, which is added to a queue monitored by the legal team, provides certainty that your request will be seen, delegated, and processed promptly. 

While it can be onerous spearheading  the initial migration to Intake, ultimately it is a change management issue that  will have to be tailored to an organization and its people. Theo has taken the hard line, saying, "If it’s not in the system, I’m not going to touch it as it’s not getting priority.” Which  makes it difficult for end users to get legal signoff and forces them to adapt to the Intake system.  

Once end users are onboarded, considerable time savings are made as Intake provides a start-to-finish process for legal matters, from the initial ticket logging to legal signoff. As with all new tech, adoption takes time. But communicating clearly that Intake is designed to create a smoother and less frustrating legal system for both the business and the in-house team will help get people on side and onboard. In fact, intake is the missing piece of the puzzle to a thriving legal team.

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