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Legal operations: are your internal clients satisfied?

Legal operations is so important, we’re writing an eBook, 'Legal operations: how to do it and why it matters', with experts exploring its key competencies.

Max Hübner, General Counsel & Executive Director Legal Operations at DPA Professionals, shares his insight on how to design legal service delivery. You can download the full eBook for free today. Don’t forget to follow us for the latest insights. The views in this article are the author's own, and do not represent the views of Juro nor those of CLOC.

How do you model service delivery for in-house legal? It’s a foundational question for all of us, but as a starting point, it’s entirely the wrong question. Before you model anything, you need to find out what you need to deliver. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s almost certain that you’ll end up some place else. You need a legal services map.

Creating a legal services map for your department means first conducting a risk assessment, to understand where and how the company is exposed to legal risk, and as a GC, how you need to respond to them. But that’s just the groundwork. You then must exhaustively identify the legal services needed by the business, and the stakeholders that need them. Depending on the size of your company, this can be a sprawling exercise - there might be five or six key programs, across areas like IP, litigation, tax, regulatory, litigation, and so on. But without it, you’ll be flying blind and throwing money out of the plane while you do it. Only once you’ve identified the specific areas of need, and the resources available to meet them, can you evaluate if you have the right level of support for those areas, to deliver the right quality, and at a fair cost to the business.

Software alone won’t help you - not without a strategy and a roadmap to guide you.

Many GCs jump past this step entirely and start with the assumption that new technology is what they need. They read something on LinkedIn, they saw something at a conference, they spotted something at their external counsel’s office - and they want it. But following the legal technology explosion to a software solution that promises efficiency and effectiveness, without taking a hard look at where your legal service map should take you, is amongst the worst mistakes a GC can make. Software alone won’t help you - not without a strategy and a roadmap to guide you.

The customer is always right

Once you know what you need to deliver, the next question has to be: how does your internal client want that service to be delivered? Far too few in-house legal departments ever take enough time to put that question directly to their business stakeholders. That’s exactly what I chose to do during my time as Director of Corporate Legal and Tax at PGGM, as part of a programme of transformational change which was nominated for the Financial Times 'Innovative Lawyers Award'. Together with Stephan van Gelder, Chief Executive at Integron, I co-created a customer satisfaction questionnaire, designed specifically to help lawyers understand their responsibilities to internal customers - and increase our value-add to the business.

The first step was to ask stakeholders what the most important factors were when it came to evaluating the performance of legal. The answer was surprising but, in hindsight, obvious: the overwhelming message was that the quality of our legal expertise was a given, almost meaningless. Internal clients know, as far as it’s possible for them to know, that you’re good lawyers. They assume this to be the case, and besides, as non-lawyers, how could they evaluate the quality of your expertise anyway? Much more important to our internal clients were factors like turnaround time; usability, meaning the way lawyers relate to business colleagues; accessibility, meaning how understandable and jargon-free the advice is; and the extent to which legal helps the business to be efficient and effective.

These insights helped me to create our first customer satisfaction questionnaire for legal, which involved 20 questions upon which legal should be graded. I also asked how important each issue was to the respondent. I first asked my in-house legal team to complete the questionnaire, and provide the names of stakeholders within the business with whom they worked. That provided a list of about 400 internal clients to survey, and when the responses came back, I could see not only those areas of most important to internal clients, but whether they matched the legal team’s expectations.

What happened next? This preview is an excerpt from Max's chapter in our eBook on legal operations. To find out the results and actions from the survey, download the full eBook. Don’t forget to follow us for all the latest.

Max Hübner

Max Hübner

Max Hübner is General Counsel & Executive Director Legal Operations at DPA Professionals. He was nominated for an award from FT Innovative Lawyers in 2013.

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