Using kanban boards is a popular practice among technology and service teams. Legal professionals, on the other hand, are much more reluctant to adopt this project management tool. Many lawyers believe that legal operations are too specific to be accurately organized in a standard chart, so they doubt the feasibility of the Kanban methodology in their working routine.
Yet, the reality is a bit different. Legal departments and law firms have a lot of mundane tasks that are based on similar procedures and require the same algorithms of actions. Such operations can be optimized with the help of the Kanban framework, just like the workflows in software development, marketing or any other business area.
Legal departments and law firms have a lot of mundane tasks that are based on similar procedures and require the same algorithms of actions.
To promote the efficiency in legal work, we decided to show you three kanban boards approved by top-performing legal teams. But before you start reading, check out the official Kanban guide to get some basic information about this methodology.
Matter management board
A matter management board is the most universal kanban board for legal process optimization. It can be used by both in-house legal teams and lawyers working at law firms. The structure of this board is more complex than the structure of a classic kanban board. The latter consists of only three columns: ‘To Do,’? ‘Doing’? and ‘Done,’? and is aimed at visualizing how a task progresses through its life cycle, from the moment it’s assigned to a team to completion. Still, all kanban boards, regardless of their complexity and area of application, are based on the same principles.
As you can see, a matter management board has as many as five columns. The reason is that legal teams have to perform a number of various tasks to resolve a single matter. For example, lawyers have to do research and due diligence, draft documents and approve them with a counterparty to close an M&A deal. If all these tasks were combined into one ‘Doing’? column, the board wouldn’t reflect the real progress of operations and would be of no use to team members.
The typical workflow of legal operations that are shown on the matter management board above includes the following stages:
- Unscheduled matters. Basically, it’s a list of matters that a team has to resolve, but no one has started working on them yet.
- Investigation. At this phase, legal professionals carry out research to figure out what information they need to collect to resolve the matter in question.
- Discovery. This is when a team actually gathers all the necessary information.
- Motion practice. This phase is all about document drafting.
- Final preparation. This is a phase when the documents are finalized (e.g., approved by a general counsel or CEO) and prepared for a court proceeding or deal closing.
Our matter management board also has five categories distributed vertically: management, internal legal, third party, opposing party and court. This additional division is done to make it more convenient for legal teams that have to work with different stakeholders. But, in general, it’s up to you to decide what categories to include and whether you need them at all.
Legal review board
Usually, a legal department is responsible for checking all contracts and other documents circulating within an organization for their compliance with laws, regulations and corporate policies. But as most businesses experience spikes and declines of activity, the workload of a legal team is practically impossible to forecast. This naturally affects the work/life balance of legal professionals causing many other problems for a company. Fortunately, legal review boards can help resolve this challenge.
To help in-house legal teams manage the high number of assignments coming from other operational departments, legal review boards allow dividing all tasks into two categories: normal and expedited. Urgent tasks go into the expedited category, which means that they are a priority and need to be addressed quickly. Besides, each category has a set WIP (work in progress) limit. It means that you can put additional items there only when there’s an available slot.
On top of that, the legal review board above has two spreadsheets: one is for analysis and another is for authorization. But this can be tweaked per your needs.
Each spreadsheet is also divided into four columns. Their titles, i.e., card, general, compliance and tax, reflect a document review procedure for a particular team. In this particular case, a document must be checked against general requirements by junior staff and then approved by compliance and tax specialists. But you can decide on the number and titles of columns that make the most sense for your legal department.
If you want to connect every document in your company to a similar cycle, opt for Approval Flows inside AXDRAFT. Our service not only helps legal teams reduce the time spent drafting routine documents (NDAs, DPAs, SLAs, etc.) but also allows them to automate a contract review procedure. By uploading documents to the system or creating them with AXDRAFT, you can go through all approval stages without back-and-forth emailing or standby.
Kanban boards are great tools to achieve higher efficiency in the management of routine legal operations.
Transaction boards are more industry-specific than matter management and legal review boards. They are designed mainly for legal departments in investment companies and funds, whose key responsibility is supporting M&A, restructuring and similar business transactions. Most legal operations of this kind comprise two procedures: a review of transaction documents and asset valuation. Plus, some unexpected issues may arise, so they also must be considered. This division is reflected in three categories on the board below.
The columns in the first category, i.e., transaction documents, are quite self-explanatory. Every document required for a business transaction has to be introduced, reviewed and agreed by a legal team. The second category is a little bit more complex since it includes two subdivisions: for high impact and low impact attributes. Unexpected events are at the bottom of the board. The workflow for their management replicates the classic kanban board save for a few minor alterations.
Most legal teams strive to achieve higher efficiency in the management of routine legal operations. Kanban boards are great tools to reach this goal since they help legal professionals organize, optimize and visualize practically all workflows. Depending on your needs, you may opt for a matter management, legal review or transaction board. The structure of each board can be tailored to the team’s specific requirements. And if you choose to use AXDRAFT, you’ll be able to not only reduce the contract review time but also automate document generation.