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A People-Centric Approach to Managing Law

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Part 2: Flexibility To Structure Work Effectively

A series of four blogs discussing the fundamental role systems play in supporting lawyers and associates.

Flexibility v rigidity

Advocates of ‘legal project management’ tools often cite the need to ‘assist’ lawyers manage their workload more effectively. Whilst in principle I agree that tools for planning, monitoring, automating and measuring legal workloads are of benefit to law firms, I often feel that the need for flexibility is under-estimated.

This is especially true for complex work types, where the automation of workloads needs to be balanced with the ability to best utilise the skills of legal professionals. In his recent book ‘The connected company’ Dave Gray encapsulates this concept using the following diagram:

Basically, the more you constrain behaviour the less creative people become and, even when people know there is a better way of doing something, the policy and procedures inherent within the system will restrain them.

However, the legal profession is based on the expertise of the people delivering legal services and, whether we like it or not, the nature of legal work is often inherently more complex than in other project-based industries.

Encouraging a flexible approach

The barriers to working in a flexible way are often system induced, for the following reasons:

The linear approach

Typical project management techniques utilise a linear approach, often planning out the steps from initial inception to completion at the beginning of the project. Whilst this is achievable for many work types in legal services, it is inherently difficult to predict the steps needed in more complex situations.

Work stages aren’t aligned with client objectives

Typically systems provide a work breakdown as a phase/task based structure that is standard for a given work/type or client, rather than allowing the nature of the work and associated budgets to flex over time as outcomes and objectives change. This rigid structure is typically imposed for standardised reporting purposes, making it difficult to align the delivery of services with client objectives.

A different approach

With LexisOne, powered by the Microsoft Dynamics AX platform, we’ve taken a different approach, enabling us to deliver clear benefits for firms.

LexisOne provides a flexible approach to managing matters, designed to cater for the most complex of matter structures. LexisOne allows multiple levels of matters to be aligned with each part of a transaction, as well as an objective or budget provided by the client. Within each level of the hierarchy users can select from either a template work breakdown structure as the basis of their estimate or alternatively create a new structure in line with their client’s objectives. Throughout the lifecycle of a matter the work breakdown can be supplemented to reflect changes to objectives and to ensure reporting is based on the expected outcome at any point in time.

I believe the above, combined with LexisNexis’ comprehensive understanding of the legal operating environment, will allow our clients to deliver legal services in a truly flexible way and, most importantly, align their internal reporting with the objectives of their clients.

If you would like to know more about LexisOne, please get in touch fraser.mayfield@lexisnexis.co.uk

 

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