All matters and tasks performed in organisations are parts of processes.
Business process can be described as a set of tasks and activities performed by stakeholder(s) to achieve a certain goal. Processes can be simple (with limited amount of steps and only one relevant stakeholder) or complex (involving various steps and multiple stakeholders and organisations). They can be short, or they can take a long time. From contacting IT support to requesting time off — there is a process behind everything.
But when it comes to legal work, we are not used to thinking in processes. Due to high complexity of legal work, it is often thought that every single task a lawyer performs is unique and thus cannot be properly described or quantified. While there are some repetitive, administrative tasks, a large part of legal work can only be solved on an individual, case by case basis. For this reason, it is often assumed that legal work cannot be seen as a business process.
At the same time, any legal matter performed in law firms and legal departments can be separated in a set of sub-tasks and can thus be viewed as a process. Let’s take a practical example of a trademark registration:
- All the necessary trademark information is gathered (e.g. trademark name and/or logo)
- Prior rights check is performed (to ensure that there are no conflicting trademark rights)
- Trademark application is filed with the chosen Trademark Office
- It is monitored that no objections or oppositions are filed against the trademark application
- Regular reports on the status of the trademark application are sent to the client
- In case of a successful registration: steps associated with trademark portfolio maintenance are taken
Thinking of legal work in processes does not by any means undermine the individual approach and complexity associated with legal work. Rather, it helps organize and make sense of the tasks and activities carried out in law firms and legal departments. Process thinking helps streamline our work, while leaving room for creativity and personalised approach.
When we talk digitalisation, we are talking digitalisation of processes. Hence, the very first step when initiating legal digitalisation initiatives is to adopt process thinking: thinking of all the legal work in your organisation in terms of step-by-step processes brings more clarity in terms of your workload and daily routines.
As a next step, it is time to review if the processes in your organisation are well organised or if there is an improvement potential to make your day to day work more efficient.