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CCCA_V2No3_Dept-Performance-FIN.qxd:CCCA_V1No2_Dept-MgLaw-V1.qxd 9/17/08 3:05 PM Page 11 Performance In The Law Department Workloads or workflows in the legal department Which is the greater challenge? new files, phone calls or e- worked hard to develop a set of precedents mails come in, there would on which users are trained to rely. Ziemer be nothing to do in less says the company is experimenting with a than two weeks. Of course, “wiki,” through which people can add to this never happens, since certain legal documents with suitable edi- the challenge is more about torial control. This approach secures more one of the industry surveys asking relentless demand (workflow) than it is user engagement and interest in things Nabout workloads differentiate the about backlogs and workloads. legal — an on-line legal community — responses according to how many years Saveria Dimasi, Head of Legal at the and ultimately improves the quality and lawyers have practised and how many of University of Melbourne, says her team of comprehensiveness of the documents. those years have been in-house. One 12 lawyers uses a detailed matter manage- Vanguard Investments Australia General hypothesis is that less experienced counsel ment system to allocate work, track files, Counsel Kathryn Watt believes that being carry a greater proportion of operational measure productivity and streamline part of the company’s executive team is support work than do their more senior resources. They have also adopted monthly, pivotal in managing workflow and work- colleagues, since they have not had enough full-day file review meetings that involve load. Having a “seat at the table” gives her time to build working relationships and everyone and that create a sense of team, a good understanding of emerging strate- fine-tune their practice management skills. build morale, celebrate successes, raise stan- gic initiatives and projects that will require Demonstrating the value of legal depart- dards, share knowledge, and improve con- legal input. Getting involved early in the ments is not a challenge when expressed in sistency of advice and practice. development of strategies enables her to financial terms. Legal work costs 40% of Dimasi says that a highly motivated team pre-empt legal issues and minimize re- what it would were it to be purchased from that supports each other is key to getting work, providing users with a realistic indi- a law firm. However, a great deal of the the work done. Managing a group of “sole cation of turnaround times and possible time spent by corporate counsel is not practitioners” may be easier, but ultimately workflow issues. “legal work” as such. Some of it is business it’s counter-productive. She has put a lot of Watt schedules regular “catch-ups” with advisory, operational support, training, spe- effort into shaping internal client behav- each key business unit manager, gets feed- cial projects and strategic work which iour by pushing “non-legal” work back to back on service performance, and identifies would never be purchased from a law firm. users, getting users to brief the legal team opportunities to improve. Vanguard has It is diverse, interesting, and a contribution through a standardized instruction form elected to have only one major external that recipients of these services openly and offering an extensive seminar program legal service provider. This in-depth rela- appreciate. It is also the type of work which aimed at making key users better informed tionship has reduced transaction costs and corporate counsel do not want to give up. and able to support themselves. has allowed for better integration and use There are a number of structural and At Pacific Hydro, a leading renewable of resources to meet demands. operating facts of life that, if not addressed, energy provider with wind farms in Paul Rogerson leads a team of 24 can add 20% to the workload of a legal Australia, Chile and Brazil, one of General lawyers at Australia’s fifth-largest financial department. The first deals with the Counsel Markus Ziemer’s major chal- institution, St. George Bank. He convenes demand for legal services. When inter- lenges is supporting and servicing a busi- a bi-weekly “load balancing” meeting with viewed, few counsel are able to detail the ness with a wide geographical spread. One each sub-group within the larger legal extent of the backlog and the future of his critical strategies is ensuring the team to assess each individual’s work-in- demand for their services. They are always team’s active involvement in the business progress and workload. In recent times, the ISTOCKPHOTO busy, never “caught up” and constantly and project planning processes to better team has worked to clarify what it does, anticipate demand for legal services. what it does not do, and how it adds value. under pressure to satisfy their “clients.” This “positioning” has helped shape when But further analysis reveals that if no Pacific Hydro’s law department has AUTOMNE 2008 CCCA Canadian Corporate Counsel Association 11
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