Chief Legal Officers: supporting in-house lawyers demonstrate their value

Process improvement

This month LexisNexis facilitated a forum for Chief Legal Officers which focused on analysing work processes to ensure that the legal team can focus their time (and talents) on the most important issues and provide advice - and in doing so, help demonstrate their value.

The session was led by Ben Ziman, Director of Continuous Improvement at LexisNexis and used practical application and small group work to discover how process management and mapping can be applied in practice.

A balance of quality, speed and cost

Analysing how processes are performed can be transformative and ignoring the potential is a high-risk strategy. Core to that efficiency is the elimination of duplicated and unnecessary tasks, better risk management and a reduction in the time taken to complete tasks. A properly managed process balances quality, speed and cost – a trio of considerations at the forefront of lawyers’ minds in the current business environment.

Further, effective process management also allows legal to align their objectives with those of the business and in doing so demonstrate their value. Simplified, standardised processes are more measurable and make it far easier to quantify legal’s contribution to the business.

During the workshop, the Forum explored a practical 5-step process to unlocking the benefits of process management and mapping:

1. Identify the risks and benefits of the process

First, the workshop looked at the value of weighing up the pros and cons of having and not having a particular process when starting a project mapping exercise. The Forum looked at running team meetings as an example where the risks of not having a process could mean disorganised meetings, wasted time and lack of engagement. On the other hand, having a process could help motivate attendees, provide clearer purpose of the meeting and better outputs i.e. minutes, actions etc.

2. Start process mapping

Next, the Forum looked at the practical steps of how to facilitate a process mapping session with top tips on how to structure the session and gain engagement. It was identified that asking the right questions at this stage can be critical. For example, does the process created mitigate all the risks identified in step one? Equally, is it delivering all the benefits identified? If not, there is a step missing in the process.

3. Consider your requirements

At this stage stating the requirements of a process can help you see where the process can fail in order to prevent this. During the small group breakout, it was demonstrated that a helpful practical approach is to understand and outline the inputs and outputs (for both internal and external audiences) required for a process to run smoothly. Going back to the meeting example, inputs could include a booked room, agenda and chairperson. Output examples include minutes and the date of next meeting.

4. Identify which stages in the process add value

The workshop then focused on how to trim and simplify the process to eliminate any unnecessary waste and to minimise business necessary waste through the use of lean methods.  A 2-step approach was put into practice:

First, once each stage of the process has been mapped out, categorise each stage in one of the following:

  • Value add: “Any activity or task that transforms the “deliverables” of a process in such a way that the customer is both aware of it, and willing to pay for it, is Value-Added”
  • Business necessary waste: no value is added but it is currently necessary
  • Unnecessary waste: no value added and not necessary

Then, trim and simply the process by considering:

  • Do we need to do this? E.g. reporting / approvals
  • Can we combine activities? E.g. have group meetings rather than approaching individuals separately
  • Can the process perform the function itself? E.g. Autofill function in forms

 5. Is there still a problem?

In the last step, the Forum looked at practical steps to take if a process has a persistent problem. For example, one can use a cause and effect diagram to generate an understanding of potential factors that could be causing the problem. Drawing a diagram of this helps come up with preventative solutions rather than ‘firefighting’ whenever the problem occurs.

Get involved

We would love to hear about your experiences and of any other successful ways of how you have done things differently to bring benefit to both the legal team and wider business. Please get in touch and share your insight in the comments box below.

Our next Chief Legal Officers Forum will take place on 05 October 2016. For any queries or to express an interesting the network please email Sophie.gould@lexisnexis.co.uk

 

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