GCRC Sports Panel – Using Data to Track and Improve the Legal Department’s Value

GCRC Sports is the part of the GC Research Club that allows in-house lawyers from the sports sector to meet and discuss, at our panel events or online, the things that matter to them.

The GC Research Club fosters collaboration and sharing among our community of in-house lawyers.

In the fourth of a series of articles based on the discussions held at the second GCRC Sports Panel in January, we will be looking into how the legal department can use data to track and improve the value it provides the organisation.

How can the legal department use data to track and improve the value they provide the organisation?

One of the panellists at the event began the conversation with three ways in which you can use data in this.

I think there’s a few basic points. Looking at the ways we can be efficient, we break down our legal spend and categorize it into different areas, like the money that you might spend on litigation or commercial work, and you break that down into broadcast and sponsorship contracts and etc. We can track how we spend our money externally and generally the same applies to other governing bodies. We in-source as much work as we can, so that helps you to build arguments about headcount to the in-house legal team. We’re spending x amount in this area so do you need an employment lawyer because of the amount of external spend that’s going on that.

Another area which I think is important is where we track our contracts. We have a contract database. It’s a very useful tool for looking at everything from contracting parties through to renewal of contracts, whether they’re coming up for renewal, have they got automatic renewal rights. Initially, we had a very basic server agreement in place, which had been signed off by someone in the IT department. He had no authority to sign off contracts at all and it turns out that it had an automatic renewal provision in it, so we didn’t give notice on the relevant date, it rolled over and all of a sudden you’re locked into a two year contract for server space at the IT team, which they tell you they don’t need anymore. That kind of stuff is frustrating. A contract database can help you combat that.

Then I think the third area is cost recovery. Like all in-house departments we’re there to protect the organisation from risk costs, things that might end up in litigation, covering for example debt.

When the idea of time-recording came up, the same GC said the following.

I have thought about it, and I don’t think it’s necessary to show the work. I think it’s very easy to spot people in your team who are not pulling their weight and doing their job. I’m one for flexible working because I think it’s good to give your staff trust and scope, and if they break that trust, you’ll know about it very quickly. Time recording, as something that can tell you if these people are working hard or not, will obviously give you some better analyses on the way you’re spending your time internally – if you’re spending it on all those different categories we were discussing before and how to use more resource in those different areas – but I think it wouldn’t go down very well at all to an in-house legal team.

At this point there was a general consensus among the in-house lawyers present that being charged for money on an hourly basis was an ‘outdated system’. This was before another attendee raised how there is a variety of databases which can help the legal team to become more efficient.

There’s actually quite a lot of databases you can put together of things that you’re doing, which you don’t really know you need them until you need them – like litigation databases. I’ve been in several due diligence projects where you have to put massive amount of data in a really short period of time. It would have taken minutes a day just to put this stuff together.

Another in-house lawyer mentioned a tracking system relating to complaints that his national sports organisation receives.

We’re using it in our complaints system a little bit. Trying to track the issues within the club world and common trends there and if there’s any way we can work with our clubs closer to try and stop getting to that stage, all the better. We’re looking back on our last six years of complaints at the moment just to get an idea of what the common themes are, and there are common themes. We can now try and think what we can do to stop them manifesting themselves as an actual complaint. Otherwise it’s something that takes up a lot of time that takes away from everything else.

Another in-house lawyer raised the importance of noting down what the legal team is doing so that information relating to what is being done at the moment can be used to aid what will be done in the future.

What I did once as part of an exercise when we were monitoring our standard terms that we do for our baseline data sales. For the management of a higher volume of contract, we had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to do it so that we didn’t have to do the gravel. What I’d say is, keep a log during a review period of those standard terms, all the comments that you get back from clients and then once you’ve built up that information you can take a sensible view on what you can do to alleviate that situation such that when you do your next volume of contracts the next year, it goes away and you save yourself emails back and forth with those customers because they just accept your terms.

The other thing the attendees discussed in this part of the conversation was how things like email can actually distract from the work the team is doing. The idea of a tracking system for time consumed by this distraction was suggested.

Email is such a time-drain, and it’s so easy to look at an email and think, I could just do that, and it will only take a few seconds, and they say that people are 60% less efficient with the use of email. I think it might be Atos, by the end of this year I think, who are going to completely abandon email in their company and use different ways of communication.

Another GC added.

Internally if the server goes down for a few hours, you actually get a heck of a lot done! So you haven’t got that excuse. It’s all about that bucket, put the big things in it and then put all of your gravel on top, which are your emails and you will get a lot done, whereas if you put your gravel at the bottom you can’t fit as many boulders in.

If you have any feedback or advice for GCRC Sports Panel team, please get in touch with the panel coordinator William Barns-Graham.

About William Barns-Graham

William is the content manager and head of communications at GC Research Club. He is a professional journalist, researcher and strategist. He has worked at GC Research Club since February 2013 and has rapidly become a distinguished voice in the in-house legal blogging community, writing on Lexis Nexis and interviewing leading legal thinkers and writers, in house lawyers and CEOs within the legal tech world. He has also coordinated the GCRC Sports Panel series.
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