Creating More Agile Legal Teams  

Question:

I realize that change is a constant in today’s legal environment, and the rate of change seem to be accelerating. While we need to be ready to pivot strategies or direction when new information or goals are identified, some members of my legal team seem to take an inordinate amount of time to adjust to real-time changes. How can I encourage them to embrace change, become more agile and respond more quickly to adjusting priorities and procedures?  


Answer:

This is an area where members of your legal team can learn from software developers, who often follow an IT philosophy known as Agile. It’s based on these core values: 

  • People over processes 
  • Action over planning 
  • Collaboration over hierarchy 

Here are four ways that your legal team can apply these principles in their work: 

  1. Improve communication. If your team is slow to react to new developments, you probably need an internal communications strategy that’s more geared toward quick and efficient information sharing. Consider, for example: 

     

    • Having shorter meetings focused on single topics 
    • Using a virtual whiteboard for important updates 
    • Using online collaboration tools for real-time brainstorming 

       

  2. Empower people to make decisions. Pressure from high-stakes situations can discourage people from making decisions — unless they know they’re empowered to do so. Talk with each individual about how they handle challenging scenarios, such as responding to new client objectives. Do they know what decisions they’re allowed to make? Most importantly, do they know they have your support if a good decision led to a disappointing outcome? 

     

  3. Foster team spirit through collaboration. Legal teams have a natural hierarchy, and sometimes the communication between tiers can be improved. Paralegals or legal assistants, for example, may not feel comfortable bringing ideas to partners and practice managers, and senior staff may not recognize skills gaps on the lower tiers. 

    Cross-generational mentorship is one way to break down these barriers. This is a scheme where junior and senior staff are paired in a bidirectional mentoring relationship. Everyone learns from each other, bringing the whole team closer together. 

     

  4. Embrace a culture of change.  Resistance to change is a common problem, with  43% of managers citing it as the biggest obstacle to digital transformation . Clients expect responsive service from legal counsel, so your team must learn to embrace change. 
Corporate culture  often comes from the top. Model the behavior you want to see in your team. Embrace technology, listen to client requests, be positive when a case takes an unexpected turn. Most of all, talk to your team about what is changing, why it’s changing and how change will help you deliver success.