COVID-19 and The Forced Evolution of Legal Operations Management

COVID-19 and The Forced Evolution of Legal Operations Management

The disruption brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has displaced the global workforce, forcing organizations to adopt and implement remote working capabilities for the foreseeable future. While this has placed greater strain on IT departments to maintain business continuity and cyber security, the pandemic has rapidly and profoundly altered legal operations management. Based on discussions with clients, our team compiled some insights for legal officers and professionals looking to adapt to and prepare for new demands.

As new remote working policies reshape processes made near-obsolete by COVID-19, organizations are rapidly (sometimes hastily) evaluating services that provide the most effective and appropriate technology solutions for their particular challenges. Historically, the legal sphere has been slow to catch up with technology, but legal departments who are able to reassess procedures and invest in flexible legal software solutions will be best placed to navigate the new legal landscape. Increased efficiencies will allow departments to meet demands and go above and beyond expectations to become a partner to the business.

For legal departments to better prepare for future disruptions, it is important to understand how the pandemic has impacted key areas of legal operations management.

Alternative Legal Services

Much like the impact of the 2008 financial crisis, legal consumers will have to rethink outsourcing their legal work as they demand cost-effective services that maintain their desired level of quality. Once again, corporate legal departments are considering whether to handle work internally or opt for alternative legal service providers. At the same time, law firms are rethinking retainer fees and the typical billable hour structure in order to provide more appealing cost models and services.

Therefore, corporate legal departments that adopt a comprehensive outside counsel and vendor management program with clear strategic goals and responsibilities will be able to maximize and leverage the most value from their vendors. Our experts can work with you to create a customized outside counsel and vendor management program framework, including legal vendor cyber risk management solutions.

Manual Processes

Many legal departments that operate through a multitude of manual processes are scrambling to adapt to the new remote work environment. One of the growing trends we’re seeing is the abandonment of paper as tasks hurriedly transition to a digital medium. More importantly, the digital matter file has become the file of record and legal departments need efficient document management capabilities to minimize time lost seeking documents and maximize data protection.

For many legal departments, processes related to paper invoices, contracts, trademarks and discovery documents now have to be handled and managed remotely, pressuring the adoption of efficient enterprise legal management (ELM), contract lifecycle management (CLM) and intellectual asset management solutions. These solutions optimize workflows, processes, approvals and overall execution time. Our team has extensive experience in legal department process assessments and technology implementations to improve efficiency of matter management and eBilling.

Metrics

One of the many benefits of ELM solutions is the ability for legal departments to gather and report on their own customized data. Legal officers can quickly provide stakeholders and executives accurate information on matters linked to crisis such as COVID-19—a growing demand as leaders try to assess the business impact of current/future events.

We can work with you to help customize your reporting capabilities.

Contracts

In-house corporate legal departments will also have to consider the impact of COVID-19 on contractual relationships. We have already seen the rise of force majeure discussions, but legal departments are still considering how to add, revise and enforce such clauses allowing for excuse of performance due to unforeseen events or occurrences and potential limits on liability. Our colleagues recently published an article in Legaltech News with excellent guidance for contract management post-COVID-19.

CLM solutions can track different versions of a contract through redlining and track changes. This decreases the legal team’s time spent preparing and reviewing negotiations. Our team has extensive experience implementing CLM solutions and can help you in all phases of the contract lifecycle, including the negotiation phase.

Litigation and Courts

Even though new litigation was down more than 20% in April compared to last year, a surge of post-COVID-19 litigation is inevitable, with some saying it’s already arrived. Matter management systems will be able to assist your department in keeping track of all your litigated matters and the different phases of litigation they are currently in. At the same time, smart document management solutions can improve how discovery requests are handled and how sensitive documents are secured.

Duff & Phelps has extensive experience implementing matter management and document management systems and can help find and deploy customized solutions for your organization.

Change Management

This much change in such a short time puts tremendous pressure on organizations to learn new tools and processes, and can often lead to decreased productivity, heightened stress and blows to morale. Corporate legal leaders can help their team and their business stakeholders more effectively manage change by creating and clearly communicating short- and long-term legal roadmaps that indicate steps taken to better prepare for future challenges such as COVID-19. Our team can work with you to help enforce change management policies and get buy-in from executives and sponsors.

Looking Forward

The ability to act effectively and efficiently is going to be more crucial than ever during times like these. Legal departments with the right tools to communicate and collaborate are more likely to adapt and ensure that their teams keep up with the evolving demands of the business. Talk to one of our legal operations management experts today about how to enhance your legal department.

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