Sitting in the waiting room of a Chicago hospital’s Cardiology department this week, my mind wandered from the health of the patient I was visiting to the health of my own heart. Being in the industry we are, and spending the amount of time I do with in-house teams, a few parallels struck me.

Over the years, we have undertaken numerous assignments across the globe looking at resourcing challenges and I often liken it to the early stages of a heart condition – variable stresses (workload), years of embedded legacy habits and a vague hope that a new and magical tablet will emerge to shed excess weight and allow me to continue my lifestyle of unlimited steak and fries washed down with a fine claret and a splendid cigar.

So how can teams clear the arteries whilst keeping the claret and (low fat) steak? Often, consultants are hired (sometimes ourselves) to reveal where the clogs are, software is acquired to assess the data and allocate tasks and strategies are considered to reduce costs. For many teams though, these aren’t viable options due to budget.

Three simple steps to get your legal department in good shape

So, as I sipped on the 9th cup of hospital coffee (low fat, long life milk), I considered some simple painless lifestyle changes that will make life a little easier without necessitating an angiogram.

3 things come to mind that can be simply achieved to allow in-house teams to avoid chest pains when workload increases.

Trim the fat: Automate standard agreements on your paper

This may or may not apply to your company, but you should consider automating the assembly of agreements which require minimal negotiation (i.e. no more than 5 negotiation points of difference). Examples could be NDAs, commission or licensing agreements, content agreements.

With the right input, you can take swathes of work away from the team and give it back to the business units. And they are auto-stored. The key is to make the user interface business friendly. It also dramatically cuts down the turnaround times. This tends to a popular idea in the business. To continue the anatomical simile, lard removed. Good one.

Find a fitness buddy: Partner with tech providers that provide a service element

I have lost count of the times I have met teams that have got budget for tech but do not quite get around to implementing it to maximum effect.

How many rowing machines are in the basement? Be honest! In this case, buying tech with no one with the wherewithal to use it (or real appetite), is very common. I met a fabulous GC who had a great workflow tool but no one to administer it. In fact, he was more stressed about having it than not, because he really knew he should, after all it was a present from the IT department.

Pick the three areas of spend and consider what might work and who might provide the best service package.

Shed the extra weight: Resource with judgement

We all know this one. But in the context of a legal team, don’t carry too much weight. There are multiple staffing and resourcing models. Where you have expertise, deploy it to optimize output and relieve them of donkey duties. A great firm we work with looks at it in a simple way: by removing the lower level tasks (through tech or outsourcing or both), they save $800 per hour on external fees and get better outcomes. Annually that saves them $1m for each internal resource that replaces and external partner. That should save a corporate heart attack on external fees. Incentivizing internal teams to find ways of replacing external clients has an incredible payback.

Assume you will get busier: when you do, you will most likely be subject to surge pricing, so create some room around the waist.

Conclusion

Small simple inexpensive steps can make a significant impact on department health without having to go to the “quack”.

Enough of my rambling. I am off to the basement to dust off my rowing machine before heading to the Chicago Cut steakhouse.