The Legal Front Door: An introduction to digital legal matter intake
Part 2: How to make your Legal Front Door a success
Successful legal departments know the value of direct and human contact with their internal customers, and in-house lawyers strive to achieve the, very personal, status of ‘trusted advisor’. It is no surprise that there is a certain reluctance to channel inquiries to the legal department through somewhat impersonal portal sites or automated ticket systems. However, the concept of service tickets is already a well-established business practice in departments like IT or HR to increase process efficiency and transparency – has the time of the “legal ticket” come as well?
Autors: Klaus Gresbrand and Sophia Schick
What is a Legal Front Door?
A “Legal Front Door” is a digital platform that enables a company’s employees to submit requests to its own legal department (Legal Service Request, LSR). When the request is made, certain information and, if applicable, documents are collected to categorize the request and initiate appropriate processing by the legal department. The employee can typically view the processing status of his or her request and often also communicate further with the legal department about the request via the platform.
The Legal Front Door can also contain references to self-service offerings of the legal department. In addition to the classic Frequently Asked Questions or document libraries, these include in particular the automated creation of standard documents (e.g. an NDA generator) and automated information systems in the form of chatbots or wizards.
In Part 1 of this article, we have outlined the many advantages of using a Legal Front Door. In this Part 2, we will look at what aspects should be considered to successfully implement a Legal Front Door in your organization.
How to successfully implement a Legal Front Door
In order to make sure that your organization will reap the rewards of having a Legal Front Door, it is helpful not to view the implementation as a purely technical project, but to look at it from the perspective of the dimensions “People – Process – Technology – Content – Governance”, and to plan accordingly. Introducing a Legal Front Door is a project in its own right, but it typically forms part of the overall digitalization and legal operations journey of a legal department.
The linchpin for the success of the Legal Front Door is its acceptance and actual use by internal customers and in-house lawyers. For many employees, the transition from calling or emailing their favorite in-house lawyer to posting a Legal Service Request on a Legal Front Door portal page will feel unfamiliar at first. An internal communications strategy and user trainings are essential to communicate the benefits of Legal Front Door and to give users confidence in using the platform. The topics of communication and training neither end with the completing the technical roll-out nor with the lapse of the initial hyper care phase: Firstly, improvements to the Legal Front Door should be communicated throughout its lifetime and secondly, there will always be new hires joining the company who need to be familiarized with the platform.
A step-by-step introduction or the introduction of test/pilot phases can be useful in order to identify and catch teething problems in a small circle before rolling out company-wide.
As a rule, the introduction of the Legal Front Door will necessitate changes to certain workflows – if only for ‘technical reasons’. Before diving into the intricacies or your new tool, it is advisable to think through the most important business processes in abstract terms, and ideally even to visualize them (formal languages such as Business Process Model & Notation, BPMN, can be very useful). This will help you define processes that are manageable in real life and which can then be technically implemented. One of the most important processes in this context is the distribution of tasks within the legal department. Other processes that deserve attention include
- situations in which employees leave the company or are absent for a longer period of time and whose work therefore has to be redistributed,
- the escalation of requests to higher levels, or
- reallocating requests (e.g., by adjusting categorization) or splitting a larger request into several smaller ones.
The selection of the appropriate software solution should only be made once the functional requirements of the company have been at least roughly outlined: Should the Legal Front Door be used only to record inquiries or, for example, also enable more sophisticated self-service elements or automated task distribution within the legal department? What connections to existing systems, such as Legal Matter Management, Legal Spend Management or Contract Management might be required to facilitate a smooth data exchange?
In addition to researching the solutions available on the market, the current system landscape of one’s own company should also be considered. Where in the company are comparable portal sites or ticket systems already being used successfully? Can the local IT build a sufficient solution from available standard software? When evaluating solutions available on the market, it should be determined not only whether the desired functionality is available, but also whether the solution is specifically geared toward use in the legal department and whether the provider can name specific customers who have already implemented its Legal Front Door solution.
The Legal Front Door is related to the topic of content in several ways:
- On the one hand, it presents content, for example in the form of FAQs or chatbots. This content should not only be correct and kept up-to-date, but ideally also written in understandable language and presented in an appealing way. Self-service offerings will only be effective in freeing up the time of the legal department to the extent that they provide helpful and easy-to-digest information.
- Furthermore, the Legal Front Door collects content from its users, especially when requesting information about a query. Here, special attention should be paid to a user-friendly design of the intake questionnaire – with as few questions as possible and easy-to-understand selection options for the user.
- Finally, the Legal Front Door generates content. Mature technical solutions can track numerous KPIs, such as the number of completed and new inquiries per reporting period or the average response time of the legal department to inquiries. The data relevant to the legal department should be defined in advance and taken into account when selecting and setting up the technical solution.
From the perspective of the governance dimension, it should be examined which legal framework conditions, but also which internal company guidelines or decision-making/monitoring bodies, need to be taken into account when planning and implementing a Legal Front Door. Since sensitive data, including personal data, can be collected via the portal site, data protection aspects are particularly important. It may also be advisable to involve the works council, or other bodies of employee-representation, at an early stage, as very granular data on users may be collected, particularly in KPI tracking.