22 January 2024

Unlocking in-house legal value: Beyond the billable hour

Author: Sacha Kirk Insights Resources

For the modern in-house legal teams, demonstrating value to the broader business has become more crucial than ever. However, the prospect of meticulously tracking time, a practice synonymous with private practice at law firms, can be agonising and counterproductive for busy corporate legal professionals.

Enter a transformative approach: the “should take” analysis and automated time-logging. In this blog post, we delve into how this innovative approach can empower in-house legal teams to showcase their value, offering insights that resonate with both General Counsel and legal operations.

The burden of time-tracking

Traditionally, legal professionals trained in the billable hour model have been burdened with the task of meticulously tracking their time in 6-minute increments. This system is considered a necessary evil in private practice, serving as the foundation for billing clients and measuring profitability. However, this method often proves impractical for in-house legal teams operating within a corporate structure and can hinder the efficient delivery of legal services. Moreover, many in-house lawyers deliberately opt for an in-house career to escape the pressures associated with time-tracking and its potential impact on morale. Consequently, the need for a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to measuring value within the in-house legal context has never been more evident.

Enter the “should take” analysis

The “should take” analysis provides a refreshing departure from the conventional time-tracking approach. Instead of focusing on the minutes and hours spent on a particular task or routine matter, this methodology emphasises the expected time a task should reasonably take or has taken in the past. This forward-looking perspective focuses on problem-solving and efficient task completion instead of watching the clock.

Automated time-logging

Automation emerges as a critical ally for in-house legal professionals seeking to streamline operations and enhance efficiency. Leveraging cutting-edge legal tech solutions, in-house teams can automate time logging for tasks and matters using the output of the “should take” analysis. For example, if a routine contract review would reasonably take 2 hours, this is automatically logged for that in-house lawyer. If it turns out to be more complex, the lawyer can edit the time log. This not only saves time but also provides a reasonable summary of the efforts invested in various legal matters.

Automated calculations

In addition to the ‘should take’ analysis and automated time-logging, in-house legal teams can harness the power of automated calculations to elevate their value proposition. With legal automation, the automated time-logging process can apply a calculation, such as an average adjusted hourly rate. This dynamic combination not only streamlines the tracking of time but also assigns a tangible financial value to the efforts invested. By quantifying the value of in-house legal work in monetary terms, organisations gain a comprehensive understanding of the cost-effectiveness and financial contributions made by their legal teams, further solidifying the role of in-house counsel as strategic partners in business success.

Comparative cost analysis

Beyond calculations using an adjusted internal hourly rate, in-house legal teams can utilise automated calculations to conduct comparative cost analyses. By quantifying the value of their work in monetary terms, teams can highlight the cost savings achieved by handling matters in-house rather than engaging external law firms. This data-driven approach allows General Counsel and legal operations to emphasise the economic benefits of an empowered and well-resourced in-house legal function.

Highlighting value through reporting and dashboards

One of the most compelling advantages of embracing “should take” analysis and time-logging is the ability to generate insightful reports and dashboards. In-house legal teams can now showcase their contributions in a language that resonates with business stakeholders. Metrics such as team capacity and the value delivered become tangible and accessible, fostering a deeper understanding of the legal team’s impact on the organisation.

Empowering legal operations and General Counsel

The innovative approach of “should take” analysis and automated time-logging aligns seamlessly with the strategic objectives of legal operations and General Counsel. These tools empower legal professionals to shift their focus from administrative tasks to high-impact, strategic endeavours. By delivering value through a focus on strategic problem solving, not just efficiency, in-house legal teams position themselves as indispensable partners in driving the company’s success.

Conclusion

In a demanding corporate landscape, in-house legal teams must navigate the delicate balance between delivering value and managing operational expectations. Adopting “should take” analysis and automated time-logging represents a paradigm shift, offering a straightforward and impactful approach to showcasing the value generated by in-house legal professionals. As legal tech continues to advance, the journey toward a more efficient, data-driven, and strategic legal function is only just beginning.

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