Published on:

24.3.20

Distant Collaboration in Legal Projects

7 tips to make legal projects better, more efficient and geographically independent

We are in troubled times and it is up to all of us to make the most of it, keep the wheels turning and continue to deliver value through vital legal services. The scene is that law firm offices have been closed down and lawyers are expected to work from home, excluded from their safe and known working environment with all that offers of tailored infrastructure to deliver on time and with expected quality. This scene comes with a set of challenges that should be addressed and handled both adequately and promptly.

As we know, staying available, efficient and delivering the highest quality is essential to lawyers, just as much in situations where the contributors are geographically spread in different locations. The need to work together while being apart has been growing steadily for some time, and has now become a must; The value of including insights from the client, various experts and work closely within the legal team is a must to maintain the quality and efficiency in the legal service delivery. Bottom line is that there is an immediate need to enhance distant collaboration in legal projects and lawyers are not used to working remotely.  

Achieving a lasting change in the way people work is normally a cumbersome and windy road as it requires a change of mindset, altered work processes and a set of collaboration tools that all play together and are fitted to the purpose. Despite this, there are things that can be done to get started quickly and achieve great improvements in a short time.

1. Create a “Team”: Working solo on projects makes the legal delivery vulnerable, both for the law firm and consequently then also for the client. Statistics implies that many will fall sick during this challenging period and the need for others to “cover” or even take over a legal project should be covered. Creating a team with a clear structure is therefore a key element in a distant legal project.

2. Detailed and accurate project management: Legal Project Management in the office often consists of several structured and unstructured meetings to distribute and follow up tasks. A separated team is a lot harder to manage and ad-hoc and requires:

  • A detailed plan of meetings in advance
  • A transparent project management tool to make sure all involved can see tasks assigned to them and other.
  • Make it possible for all involved to work on their tasks when it’s most convenient. Working from home office with children at home due to closed schools will require more flexibility than working in the office.

3. Create “One source of truth”: Managing the information in a legal project is always critical for the quality and efficiency of the service delivery. In a “home office” project it is even more important to make sure all information is available to everyone in the team, preferably in a structured manner in a single repository. Creating one single “source of truth” were all documents, legal sources, overviews of subject matters, working notes etc. are gathered and made available, will be a major asset in all phases of delivery.

4. Make the VC-meetings short and to the point: Teams, Zoom or any other platform for video conferencing is one of the most important tools available to make collaboration possible in the current situation.  In meetings you want to make sure you focus on discussing the subjects that drives value and moves the project forward. You therefore need to run meetings as efficient and to the point as possible.:

  • Make the same and all relevant information accessible in the same setting and format to all participants. This makes it easier to get directly to the point of the discussion. “One source of truth” as described above will help you achieve this.
  • Keep a strict and transparent agenda to make sure you use the time on resolving issues rather than updating each other. The agenda must of course be shared with all participants in advance.

5. Keep the client continuously up to date: Clients like to be a part of legal projects, and especially now where the insecure situation can have an immediate and potentially devastating impact on their business. Lawyers should then put even more emphasis on creating a good client experience where the client is informed, involved and comforted on a regular basis. To achieve this, make sure that:

  • A plan for meetings with the client is distributed
  • The client has access to a clear agenda with all the issues that will be addressed in the meeting
  • The client has access to all relevant information that is necessary to understand and contribute in the matter. This should also be structured in the same way as the legal team sees it.

6. Deliver according to a standard procedure: Part of Lawyers’ trade secrets is how they do what they do. However, there is an increasing number of law firms and lawyers that have started to deliver on a standard methodology to make sure everyone involved knows what to do and what others do at the different stages of a matter. This becomes even more important as the involved work separately, mitigating the risk of misunderstandings causing inefficiencies and quality breaches. It is also essential when new people, for different reasons, need to join the team at certain stages of the matter.

7. Use “adequate” collaboration technology: In addition to providing the standard viable solutions for video conferencing, most law firms have collaboration platforms like HighQ and others in their standard toolbox these days. Very few tend to exploit their potential, though. This is the time to start using these tools for what they are worth, both basic features and specialized legal project management solutions for certain types of matters. Such tools used diligently, in the correct manner will make sure you execute all the above-mentioned advice and deliver legal services that keep the standards you are used to, if not higher!

In addition to the importance of possessing the right, high level legal expertise and applying a more structured work process, having an open growth mindset is a major asset in a crisis like this one. It can mean a world of difference of how you handle and exit difficult situations; damaged and hurt or stronger and wiser. This situation forces us to work smarter, more structured and more collaborative, making it an opportunity to vastly accelerate the digitalization. That is, if we want to deliver at the same level of quality as usual, or better! As I know law firms, quality is an imperative in their service delivery.

Written by:

Knut-Magnar Aanestad

Co-founder/Market

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