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Legal Intake: The ‘Workflow Synapse’ for Your Department

May 02, 2024

legal ops law departments trends software elm law department consulting

To conclude our ‘Road to CLOC’ series, we examine a critical factor in legal operations efficiency: the legal intake platform. The vital role of intake tools and systems makes them ‘make-or-break’ determinants of law department operational success: transparency, communications, turnaround time, work allocation, and – above all – the business value a law department delivers.

All law departments have, de facto, some legal intake system, and every law department must deliver business and strategic value. This means a department’s success hinges on its legal intake system’s abilities as a ‘workflow synapse’ that facilitates seamless information flow across departments and optimised legal workflows. However, does a law department assess how well its existing approach and tools enhance legal workflows across the business?

The Evolution of Legal Intake in Corporate Departments

Legal intake has become a focal point for many law departments. There is growing acknowledgement that intake is the linchpin of optimising departmental operations and enhancing service delivery across a business. Legal ops teams have adopted various law-specific and ‘industry agnostic’ tools to address intake challenges and streamline the capture, management, and assignment of legal requests. However, time and again, law departments have discovered that the complexity of these tools creates frustration among users and exacerbates operational bottlenecks. Things become more complicated and less efficient.

The lesson is that adopting a legal intake tool isn’t the critical step. Instead, the key to success is finding a tool that harmonises simplicity with adaptability. A good tool facilitates process optimisation without adding complexity, requiring extensive training, or hamstringing a department as it evolves and its workload grows.

The Importance of Simple Yet Scalable Legal Intake Tools

When it comes to legal intake tools, many legal operations teams assume that simplicity means limited capabilities. Not so. The most effective tools are robust enough to manage the complex needs of a corporate law department yet intuitive enough for anyone to start using effectively with minimal instruction. The best legal request systems combine easy configuration and user-friendly interfaces with powerful automation capabilities, functionality to organise intake forms, a centralised dashboard, and collaborative workspaces.

A key determinant of a tool’s value-add is whether it integrates seamlessly with other legal and business systems so that a law department’s work does not become or remain siloed but is integrated into broader business processes. Without this interconnectedness, it becomes unnecessarily hard for a department to provide timely strategic advice to its parent organisation and establish the department as a business and strategic partner that contributes directly to the bottom line.

Smoothing Legal Workflows Across the Organisation

All of this makes implementing a streamlined and simplified legal intake tool crucial for achieving meaningful improvements in operational efficiency and departmental responsiveness to internal and external requests. A legal intake tool – a good one — serves as the central nervous system of legal workflows that ensures information is correctly routed, prioritised, and managed, thus allowing legal teams to respond more effectively to the needs of the business.

A well-designed legal intake system also enables a law department to transition to a proactive posture. Automating the intake process enables legal teams to quickly and early on identify compliance issues, bottlenecks, and liabilities and then address these sources of inefficiency, legal risk, and non-compliance at the outset. This proactive approach does more than streamline and accelerate legal processes. It also empowers law departments to contribute more strategically and directly to the success of the business. Therefore, a tool’s simplicity, ‘integratability,’ and flexibility are critical to a law department’s – and a business enterprise’s – success.

In my colleagues’ and my ongoing work to refine and perfect legal intake tools, we are keen to engage with the legal operations community to better understand their needs and challenges and hear their thoughts and insights. For those of you who will be in Las Vegas at the CLOC Global Institute, we welcome the chance to discuss legal intake systems and listen to your perspective. How have legal intake tools impacted your workflows? What have been the ‘lessons learned’ in deploying and using various tools? What would you like companies (such as Elevate) that build these tools to know? We’re looking forward to connecting and hearing your answers!

A good legal intake system is crucial to law department success – operationally, legally, and in terms of adding business value. The best legal intake tool is simple, adaptable, and able to integrate with existing legal-specific and “industry agonistic” operational tools widely used today by law departments.

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