Maximizing Efficiency When Resources are Low

  • September 22, 2022
  • Kate Rogers

Maximizing Efficiency When Resources are Low

Three-quarters of lawyers frequently feel over capacity and more than half don’t conduct any kind of tracking to better understand their resourcing constraints – at least that’s the case according to respondents surveyed at this year’s CCCA National Conference.

With many people sharing similar beliefs that their inboxes are out of control and they don’t have enough time or capacity to manage their workloads efficiently, is it even possible to regain control over your resourcing?

Jolie Lin, Founder & CEO of Linnovation Works Inc., says it is, and she shares what strategies can be implemented to manage those challenges both within your in-house legal team and with external counsel.

Strategies for Maximizing In-House Legal Team Efficiency

1. Inventory

  • Dedicate time to track what you (or your team) do to get a sense of how long tasks really take. Use this information to determine where the most time is being spent and identify how much support is needed. 
  • Consider if more resources can be allocated to some tasks or taken away to support other activities. 
  • Engage your team, if you have one, to learn their pain points. They’re more likely to invest in finding a solution if they’re part of the process.

2. Balance

  • Find the balance between risk and value. It’s easy to justify a task being of high value, but that only contributes to feeling overwhelmed because you have too many high-value tasks. Use risk as a criteria to help make your priority list more manageable. 
  • Consider short-term and long-term impacts. Often, tasks with short lead times seem urgent but deadlines aren’t necessarily the most important factor when deciding how to allocate time.
  • Evaluate your work against company priorities. Are your day-to-day activities aligned with the strategic priorities of your organization? If not, consider dedicating more effort where there’s the greatest organizational impact, rather than on the tactical needs of your day-to-day, and allocate resources accordingly.

3. Assess

  • Compare yourself to other legal groups in your industry to see how they are resourced. This will give you an idea of what’s reasonable to help you determine if you have the optimal resourcing strategy.
  • The right data will equip you to critically evaluate where efficiency opportunities exist and make informed decisions. 
  • Assess each file to determine whether it makes sense to outsource it or complete it in-house. If you have extra capacity, you may decide bring work you are currently outsource in-house instead. Or perhaps you’ll find some work is better suited for an external counsel to complete.

Strategies for Maximizing External Counsel Efficiency

Using a similar process as you would to evaluate resourcing for your in-house legal team, you can identify if there are better ways to leverage any external counsel you use one.

1. Inventory 

  • View external counsel as an extension of your in-house team. The stronger the relationship the more committed they’ll be to knowing your business. 
  • Be strategic about the kind of work you want to outsource. Think about what kind of external counsel structure you need and build those connections accordingly. For example, do you need a specific type of expertise? Do you need extra people on hand during certain times? Do you want an external council to complete work that isn’t essential to your organization’s strategic priorities but still needs to get done?

​​2. Fit

  • Develop your network before you need it. 
  • Determine what size of external counsel is manageable for your organization. The right-sized team means it’s more likely they’ll invest in knowing your business because they’ll have the time to make you and your relationship a priority.
  • Consider what other benefits external counsel can bring, such as personal development events, provision of student help, knowledge management support, etc.

3. Retainers and alternative fee arrangements

  • Most big firms have their own standardized retainer, but it’s a good idea to provide one to your external counsel if they don’t. This will make sure any external counsel you work with will operate under the same set of rules, providing you with a consistent and agreed upon understanding about what the expectations are.
  • If the relationship with your external counsel is strong enough, discuss alternative fee arrangements. This will help you maintain predictability over your budget and provide better control for how you manage it.