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Avoiding the GC time-trap: gaining control and efficiency

More for less” is an often repeated phrase that is showing no sign of falling out of fashion, but what does this really mean to a busy General Counsel?  

There are many areas to consider, for example negotiating better terms with external firms, considering flexible on-demand legal services, investigating legal process outsourcing or even AI.

Yet all of these require considerable time and effort just to consider, let alone implement, and for the busy General Counsel finding that time is a major challenge of itself.

So the first place to start with any efficiency review is to look at how you are spending your own time with a view to identifying whether there are any tasks or activities that are taking a disproportionate amount of your time.  

One way to do this is to keep a diary detailing how you spend your time over a couple of typical weeks, particularly the time outside of meetings and the time you spend dealing with administrative matters. This will help you identify where you may have fallen into some time-traps.

One administrative task which typically takes a disproportionate amount of time is dealing with law firm invoices. On the face of it, this should be relatively simple and straightforward but all too often it can become a major task. It will usually involve liaising with colleagues to understand the background of the matter and any agreed budget, then checking the invoice to see whether it was within budget and whether there were any obvious errors or issues to challenge.

You will also need to check whether your colleagues were satisfied with the service and you may need to liaise with the law firm if there are any queries or elements of dissatisfaction. Depending on the outcome of the review you may then need to have the invoice re-issued and checked again before it can be approved for payment. Not only can this add up to a lot of your time but it can also be a source of negative tension in your relationships with law firms, particularly if invoice review and challenges are not dealt with promptly when the matter is fresh in everyone’s mind. 

Without a good picture of the relevant data and some clear processes you will struggle to gain control. As a starting point, get a full and up-to-date picture of the current committed legal spend with each of your law firms and for each matter they are handling.  Assess how many invoices you are processing, with which firms and for which departments or projects. Have this information kept up-to-date by all members of your department and any other colleagues who regularly instruct external firms. Once you have a comprehensive view of the legal expenditure data you will be in a much stronger position to consider how you can start to take control of the process, your own time and your organisation’s money.

Crowd & Co

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