The term ‘lawyer’ evokes different things to different people, from suits and posh shoes to large timber desks and Denny Crane or Rachel Zane. For the unlucky few, the term ‘lawyer’ conjures up a quite different image: legal pads, paper files, shared drives and, if you’re lucky, a well-organized email.
This rather unfortunate combination of items is what accounts for file management for many lawyers. Perhaps the worst aspect of this arrangement is that any time a managing partner or a key-stakeholder requests crucial information on a client or a matter, your workflow changes from managing your own matters to scrolling through old emails and documents as well as chasing others up to locate the necessary information.
These issues have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the note pads and files which would previously have been strewn across your desk have now migrated to your email.
While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this approach it comes with pitfalls. The first is the lack of efficiency means counsel are spending considerable time consolidating the status of work. The second is that it impedes your ability to collaborate with the wider business. Updating relevant parties on matters or answering simple requests is problematic. Also, the lack of clarity dissuades people from engaging with the legal function.
All of this results in legal falling behind the more efficient and transparent business functions. Which is incongruent given that legal has potential to be the highest value-add of any business function.
However, there are legal tech solutions such as LawVu which can help bring your file management system up to the standards of more traditionally agile business functions. Legal tech can transform a disconnected in-house counsel to a connected one. The key shift is being empowered by a single source of truth which will enable the legal function of a business to match the agile approaches of other departments.
The advantages of embracing legal tech and working off a single source of truth are innumerable. But perhaps the most pertinent is the ability to have true oversight over your work. This means that time previously spent consolidating information and chasing people up can be replaced by working on the higher value tasks in your workload. It also enables you to update other business functions almost instantly. Or if they have access to the matter they can provide themselves with those updates.
Matthew Brasch, Associate GC at Buckle, recently made the shift from working predominantly in his emails to using a single source of truth product for his file management. “We implemented a legal workspace in July and it’s been fantastic. It’s completely changing the landscape of how we do our work,” he says.
Implementing solutions of this kind have useful ancillary benefits. For instance, it enables counsel to use email as a productivity tool as opposed to a filing system. Which was a benefit that helped to elevate the workflows at Karl Storz, according to Senior Legal Counsel Erica Yen. “Before we were operating mostly out of email, and we also had shared drives. It was definitely a stopgap measure as we were saving everything there as a matter of course and it was easy to become siloed.”
It is especially important during these pandemic times, where counsel are increasingly overworked and working remotely, to be constantly assessing your workflow and asking whether this is the most efficient and simple way of doing things - whether or not you feel as if you are truly connected to other business functions. If not, it is time to consider adding an all in one solution to your arsenal. Operating in an agile manner will help to shift the perception of the legal function from a slow-moving leviathan to a highly efficient value-add.