Question: How should legal teams prioritize their work?
Answer: Focus the legal team on legal matters that are strategically important to the business. Non-legal work should be done by someone else, and some work perhaps not at all.
Legal teams across the board—regardless of industry or location—struggle to keep their lawyers focused on their best, highest uses: providing legal advice regarding the legal matters that matter most to the business. Only lawyers can provide that legal advice, so it is essential that the legal team not get consistently pulled into non-legal work (which can be handled by non-lawyers). Lawyers tend to be skilled problem solvers, and their client service instincts may spur many to jump in and help resolve issues, even if they really aren’t legal in nature. That may make sense in isolated circumstances, but when it happens too often it leads to a misallocation of resources and talent away from what the lawyers actually are meant to do— and what only they can do: provide legal counsel to the business.
Even when the lawyers stay within their lane and focus on handling legal work, however, clients report that much of the work they do is not high value. That is a similar misallocation of resources that disserves the business. The following graphic observes how legal teams should focus their efforts, and highlights a few strategies to help do so. Fixing these dynamics has multiple benefits: it better serves the client in the most important strategic matters it faces; it reduces costs by focusing the legal team effectively; it helps mitigate burnout and the resourcing/staffing problems that burnout creates (especially in the midst of the Great Resignation and the War for Talent); and it reduces reliance on expensive outside counsel.