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4 Strategies to Help Advance Your In-House Legal Department

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Let’s face it, being a corporate legal team in the year 2022 is no easy task. A lot has changed in recent years, and teams now rely on collaboration between legal, technical, and operational specialists. Today’s ediscovery teams must be multifaceted, integrating different considerations, roles, and technologies. But this alone isn’t enough, corporate legal teams are losing budget and staff at the same time that litigation needs are skyrocketing. Not to mention soaring data volumes, and increasing risk and regulations. In addition, evolving and advancing one’s team can feel like a monumental task, when compounded with the increase in litigation and demand, the task can start to feel impossible. 

Most teams find that resources like quick reference guides and an overarching ediscovery manual help to solidify processes and reduce risk, especially when onboarding staff or bringing new processes online.

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So how do you manage the need to advance your team while keeping up with the ever increasing flow of litigation? Here are a few strategies to advance your in-house legal team for the future. 

1. Use Legal Ops to Optimize Your In-House Legal Department

Legal departments have had to face the world’s technological advances head on. In recent years ediscovery professionals face soaring data volumes, risks, and matters, all of which challenge the way in-house legal teams operate. Legal costs have ballooned, and the ongoing pandemic has only exacerbated the challenges.

To adapt to these challenges, legal departments have started to embrace an operations-oriented approach to address workloads. Even if you don’t have a formal legal ops role on your team, companies can employ legal ops best practices to to balance cutting costs with mitigating risk, all while driving efficiency. Legal ops offers strategic planning, financial and project management, and tech know-how that enables the rest of the department to focus on their core areas of expertise.

How Does Legal Ops Help?

According to  CLOC, the need for legal ops is driven by the following four components: 

  • Cross-Functional Alignment: Strategically align with other functions and business partners for improved collaboration and to drive impact.
  • Data Analytics: Use quantitative and qualitative data to identify opportunities to improve the function of the legal department.
  • Technology: Maximize efficiency by using collaboration tools, workflow automation, business intelligence, and other solutions.
  • Optimize Resource Utilization: Improve use of resources by matching the right work with the right provider.

Ediscovery professionals looking to get ahead of the challenges that continually face legal teams must sink or swim. Legal ops can help bring value to the table, driving the use of technology, team alignment, a data centric approach, and more. 

2. Understand the Keys to Successful Ediscovery Management 

Ever heard the expression, no “one size fits all”? Well it could not be more true for ediscovery. This realization might be frustrating for teams trying to drive consistency, but there is a world of opportunity in the uncertainty. Here are a few key factors for how to drive team success for ediscovery. 

  • Customize Your In-House Team 
    • Before you start assembling your ediscovery dream team, consider your organization type, company size, litigation profile, technological proficiency, and data types, among other factors. 
    • Next, weigh your business priorities in terms of the level of risk you’re willing to incur, the importance of cost control, your ability to expand or scale your staff, and the timeframe over which you need to establish a fully functional team. 
  • Balancing Ediscovery Software and Tools with People 
    • The best people in the world won’t do you any good unless they have the tools and resources they need to operate most effectively. Similarly, those tools and resources are useless if they are too complicated to use. Your team must focus equally on knowledgeable, capable people; functional, easy-to-use technologies; and adequate resources — both time and money — to get the most from those people and tools.
  • Always be Training Your In-House Ediscovery Team
    • Within your ediscovery team, you should create standard operating procedures as you design your new workflows. Most teams find that resources like quick reference guides and an overarching ediscovery manual help to solidify processes and reduce risk, especially when onboarding staff or bringing new processes online.

3. Know the Critical Roles of Ediscovery Teams

Ediscovery today requires three different specialities: legal issues, data management, and business operations. To fill these roles, evaluate whether you should train existing staff, reassign people from other departments to the ediscovery team, or bring in new staff. The three critical roles for ediscovery teams fall under the following categories: 

  • Legal Professionals
    • From lawyers to paralegals and other litigation support staff, you need people on your ediscovery team who understand the law so that they can assess what evidence is relevant to establishing or defending a claim. Your legal professionals also contribute a mastery of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and relevant case law, ensuring that your ediscovery processes keep pace with courts’ expectations.
  • Data Specialists
    • Big data isn’t going anywhere, in fact, it’s only getting bigger. Any modern ediscovery team must include someone who understands data. Learn how to preserve it, navigate it, extract it, and learn from it. It’s not enough to rely on your IT team down the hall. 
  • Project Managers
    • With the emphasis today on legal operations and budget adherence, ediscovery teams must have at least one member who can manage the overall system. This means keeping track of iterative ediscovery processes, overseeing project hand-offs between team members or vendors, monitoring and balancing budgets, controlling risk levels, and designing and troubleshooting workflows.

4. Learn How Ediscovery Software Can Help Advance Your In-House Legal Team

Your team needs software to actually do the work of ediscovery. However, these are not tools you should merely get, but tools you should adopt. Buying cutting-edge technology or purchasing licenses for best-in-class ediscovery software is pointless if your team doesn’t actually use those tools. To encourage user adoption, evaluate technological options based on the characteristics of your particular organization — how tech-savvy and flexible are your staff? — and remember to provide adequate training for all team members. Here are a few key ways ediscovery software can help your in-house team. 

  • Boost Security
    • No matter how stringent your security protocols are, your organization’s data will still be at risk if your employees don’t follow them. Compromised employee accounts are one of the biggest dangers companies need to manage. Ediscovery software can help provide broad insight into your organization’s data and give you a better understanding of what areas might be at risk. 
  •  Rely on Automation for Ediscovery
    • ​​Software that is easy to use can help drive automation and save time. By mastering a tool’s functionality in less time and automating when you can, you’re freeing up time to work on other tasks and increasing the value your organization receives from your investment.
  • Make Your In-House Team Happier
    • This is a massively overlooked benefit to ediscovery software. Your people are your biggest investment. By giving them tools that are intuitive and simple to use, you make their jobs and lives easier. You empower your employees to spend more time on fulfilling, high-value work, as opposed to struggling with frustrating software.

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