Have you ever paused to think about how your colleagues request work with Legal? The majority of in-house legal teams are still receiving legal requests by email, calls, or someone walking over to a member of the legal team. This is so commonplace that a lot of legal departments will never analyze the process.
Working with legal departments of all sizes and industries, I’m often the first person to raise the possibility of streamlining this process. By refining this key stage in the matter or contract lifecycle you will improve the interaction between the business and legal, and hasten the time to get the required result.
A statement front door strikes a positive note. It’s clearly visible and stands out from the crowd. Its design is thoughtful, welcoming. In legal parlance, the “Intake” process is sometimes referred to as the “front door to legal”. With the relentless demand for legal support and the increasing amount of data to review in less time than ever-improving, this step is a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get some quick wins for your legal department.
Intake is what it sounds like - the way in which legal receives and processes legal requests, delegating them to the best person for the job. Legal teams can use various tools to aid this, such as specially designed matter management portals, enterprise "ticketing systems", or web forms.
With purpose-built intake technology, an internal client can log a legal request which goes into a queue. This request could be tailored to the specific area of law, practice area, or jurisdiction, and it should require the input of the supporting data which the lawyer needs in order to action the request. This process means the correct person will receive the request and will have everything they need to get to work.
Traditionally, the intake process in legal looks like this: internal client emails a specific lawyer with a request; a litany of emails back and forth as the lawyer gathers the information needed to action the request; said request is eventually delegated to someone within the legal team to complete the matter.
There are several examples of waste in this model:
Firstly, emailing or IM’ing is no quick process. Emails can sit unopened in an inbox for days, especially if the legal team member it was sent to is in meetings, or on leave. Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report found that 48 percent of global respondents expect a response to a request in less than 48 hours when logged using social media. We all know that lawyers can take much longer than this to reply to emails.
Every year, for many years, the Office of Legal Services Commission Annual Report shows that the most commonly made complaint about lawyers is poor communication, followed by negligence and then overcharging. So the evidence suggests that modern clients have high expectations for responsiveness.
Regarding inefficiency, as corporate counsel and client email back and forth, time is being wasted where it could be better spent. Rather than the lawyer having to ask a plethora of questions to gather the necessary data, a streamlined request form could be filled out which would provide all relevant information at the first step, saving days or perhaps weeks of email table tennis.
The lack of a transparent and user-friendly intake system puts good working relationships between legal and clients at risk. Clients often don’t know whether counsel is on leave, preoccupied with a time-consuming matter, and/or the only individual on the legal team to have received their request. They just want their issue dealt with.
With an intake system, you could have an issue completed in the time it currently takes you just to gather the information you require.
Legal teams often fear that if they introduce an intake system the business will rebel and fail to engage Legal when necessary, but think back to initial consultations in private practice; clients prefer coming prepared with the information that is required to get the right advice and results quicker. Internal clients aren’t so different!