The Mission Continues Post-Launch: Measure and Engage to Optimize Legal Operations (Part 2)

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Client Relations, Corporate Legal, Data Analytics, Efficiency, Law Firms, Legal Innovation, Legal Managed Services, Legal Operations, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Practice Engineering, Process Management

legal operations

On August 25, 2003, a McDonnell Douglas Delta II rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Its’ payload, NASA’s Spitzer telescope, was the size of a family sedan.

This transformative telescope officially signed off on January 29, 2020. The Spitzer telescope was cited in more than 8,700 research papers; it determined when star formation peaked in the universe and discovered a new Saturn ring and four Earth-sized planets orbiting the star Trappist 1. More to our point, its legacy illustrated that successful missions merely begin on the day of launch.

In part 1 of this two-part series, I discussed the best pre-launch practices to ensure the success of legal operations. With this part, I explore best practices of the post-launch that will ensure that legal operations function is a sustainable and continuously improving enterprise.

Measure Success to Continuously Improve

Female computer science trailblazer and U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper famously stated: “One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.” While I firmly believe that the combined intellectual horsepower of attorneys practicing in-house — in tandem with their trusted outside counsel — is second to none, the legal profession too often relies on anecdotes that are subject to cognitive biases rather than drawing insights from data to amplify its potential.

To paraphrase management guru Peter Drucker, you cannot manage or improve what you cannot measure.

Fortunately, starting the data-based decision-making journey does not require hiring advanced data scientists because data-driven legal processes are still in their infancy. It does require teams to agree upon key outputs that measure success and design processes that ensure accurate data inputs and data integrity of utilized systems. So, take the first step, iterate and continuously improve.

When possible, use the same measures that the business uses to measure its success. Metrics that are widely understood both inside the legal team and by stakeholders allows you to more effectively communicate your message and ensure that more signal than noise is reaching your intended audience. As more people understand your purpose and problem-solving narrative, achievement of the change and of the adoption sought will greatly increase.

At Asurion, the business rigorously tracked and utilized Net Promoter Score® (NPS) as a key performance indicator. The beauty of NPS lies in its simplicity. Its goal is to determine customer loyalty rather than mere satisfaction by asking the simple question, “How likely are you to recommend this legal product or program to a colleague?”

When these responses are coupled with usage data, operations teams gain valuable insights into their clients that will then inform decision-making and strategic planning, including providing education to team members and requesting additional software features. Having an easy to understand baseline measure also starts you on the process of discovery. Further, having an active feedback loop for determining success of interventions and pilots as well as discovering what other measures are key determinants of an initiative’s success is crucial to continual improvement.

Engage & Share Success

In order to cross the chasm from early to widespread adoption, organizations must put in place a communication strategy that embraces engagement and shared success. The strategy should encompass multiple forms of media and channels; and department and team leadership should recognize efforts of attorneys and staff at department meetings, team meetings, and one-on-ones where performance and career development are discussed.

Digital campaigns led by legal operations also are requisite parts of a comprehensive communication strategy. Digital campaigns can include company or team intranets, legal-focused newsletters, and email with analytics tracking. Further, communications leveraging other tools within the organization — such as Workplace and Yammer — and collaborating with internal IT and outside vendors to develop knowledge documentation are also critical to the communications success.

In order to launch a rocket into space, many complicated laws of physics must be successfully navigated. To achieve post-launch flight, legal operations teams must also successfully navigate a fundamental law of nature. Entropy dictates that the natural tendency of things is to lose order and eventually slow and stop. Legal operations require real relationships with people, technology, and data; but like any good relationship, you must constantly put something into it to get the valuable material out of it.

While the process and technology aspects of legal operations garner much of the attention, teams that incorporate human-centered designed principles will position themselves to achieve the innovation and change they desire. Specifically, legal operations should solve actual problems presented by their customers, giving the microphone to the customer to better share the success of the problem-solving journey.

In order to launch a rocket into space, many complicated laws of physics must be successfully navigated. To achieve post-launch flight, legal operations teams must also successfully navigate a fundamental law of nature.

Modern work and especially legal work — with constant pinging of email notifications and recurring ineffective status meetings — is too often filled with transmissions at people rather than engagements with people. The innovative, technical- or process-savvy legal operation visionary must be attuned to this reality and avoid a potential major obstacle on the road to success. Ultimately, it is about your customers and where they are in life — it’s not about you and your impressive knowledge and skills.

If legal operations leaders and tech enthusiasts are not careful, they can appear to be a mad lab scientist who does not understand day-to-day problems. I suggest more white-glove concierge service à la  Batman’s Alfred — less Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future. In today’s environment where social isolation and attorney mental health are significant issues, do not underestimate the impact of solving problems of any size for real people. The goodwill obtained from creating a rule in Outlook for a novice is of equal value to the advanced AI-infused e-discovery or contract lifecycle management process adopted with your guidance by tech-enthusiast attorneys.

All transformation movements require evangelists; and real change occurs when the evangelist passes the story on to others to share the message. Creating meeting series, incentives, and communications channels where the people who successfully led or piloted a mission are the star of the show goes a long way to sharing this message. And when these individuals are recognized and share their success, others begin to believe it’s possible and desire recognition too.

Facilitate the ability to share and then take quiet satisfaction in setting the foundation that made success possible. Then, rinse, repeat and do the incremental improvement work that will pay off like compound interest for your legal operations team in the long run.