What you need to know when reporting on your legal department
Issuing a report about the goings-on of an in-house team presents an opportunity to provide with stakeholders and articulate, analyse, share critical information and demonstrate value, according to Xakia.
In a newly released white paper — Best-In-Class Legal Reporting — matter management platform Xakia, and its founder and CEO Jodie Baker (pictured), argued that “thoughtful reporting” can do more than simply raise the legal team’s profile and chart its activity.
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It can also “help you to understand the facts, shape strategies for address[ing] legal or business weaknesses, and to form the foundation to build stronger ties throughout your organisation,” it posited.
The white paper identified five key audiences that legal reporting in-house must focus on: business units, the CEO, the board, legal department management and the broader legal team itself.
With regard to reporting to business units, Xakia wrote that if the legal department takes the time to provide meaningful reports to business clients, this will lead to the enjoyment of higher profiles and stronger relationships, with department-specific information to be provided about matter lists, budget, resourcing, work types, risk and strategic value.
In-house teams should prepare reports that reflect how best that team can act as a proactive adviser to the board and CEO, offer risk analysis expertise, contribute to business strategy discussion and support the execution of the business plan.
“Chart the elements of risk, budget and strategy together: how much of your budget is going to be high-risk and critical matters versus low-stakes enquiries? What percentage of your budget is going to be high-strategic-value work versus matters that simply keep the lights on?
“It’s metrics like these that will take your legal department from being perceived as a cost centre — or being seen as ‘The Department of No’ — to getting a seat at the table as a proactive adviser.”
When reporting to the legal department managers, it is important to think purposefully, Xakia wrote, extrapolating what needs to be known, and what managers need to be prepared to share or discuss with the CEO and board.
“Unlike a report for the entire department, this document should not get too deep into the details of deadlines or individual assignments. Instead, it should provide busy managers with the high-level knowledge they need to guide the department and fulfil the [following] duties: provide timely, insightful advice; further the company’s strategic goals; manage risk; maintain the budget; and make resourcing decisions,” Xakia wrote.
And, in reporting amongst the team itself, internal reporting “does not need to be cumbersome to compile or to read”.
“A simple, straightforward list of matters will provide valuable intel without becoming another chore. If you employ legal data analytics, you can use aggregated data about matters within a data range or active at a point in time. Additional metrics can provide meaningful detail about your operations, cost and trends.”