Starting with the obvious: Lawyers are not particularly receptive to rapid change. This is hardly surprising when you look at the object of their actions: the law. Law is the rock in the surf of daily politics and does not follow every „hype topic“—for good reasons.
On the other hand, “agile” says it all—it is about taking decisions fast, about redesigning structural bottlenecks and transforming old structures into “breathing” ones, capable of adapting to the new challenges our profession is facing. Agility is more than the next hype—agile working methods are here to stay. They are not a disruptor, but rather a reaction. They arise from the logic of the all-encompassing trend towards digitization. A trend whose basic maxims are speed—and ever-growing complexity.
Rising to the challenge(s)
The digital transformation is challenging all of us. Teams in legal departments are working at full capacity, and the mountain of new demands keeps growing daily. External changes are neither avoidable nor preventable. They simply happen according to circumstances outside our control and beyond our reach. Those external changes require adaptability—a transformation that is capable of exploiting potentials and overcoming bottlenecks. The ability to reprioritize and to course-correct is becoming increasingly important. Being agile could become a crutch you can and should rely on.
During the transformation process, you often recognize the potential for improvements and the room for new forms of collaboration that you did not even have in mind at the beginning. Thereby, you will almost inevitably come across „low hanging fruits“, i.e. change-gains that can be collected without much effort and that already bring about initial process improvements.
Learning from others and daring to pave your own way
While more and more legal departments are recognizing the potential of “agile working”, they are still entering uncharted territory for the legal profession. No rutted path, no yellow brick road to lead you to the destination, and everything is a journey. When exploring new territories, it is particularly important to share experiences, and to learn from the competencies and mistakes of others. Reach out and exchange with other legal departments that have started similar projects and you will discover an undreamed-of potential for cooperation. It is crucial to always remain curious, to question the status quo, and to try out new ideas. There is nothing to lose—but a lot to gain!
Internally, a big chunk of the benefits of agile flow results from the team structure and the responsibility each team member takes for the joint success. Agile requires an organizational system where every team member bears responsibility, not just the manager. However, it does not happen at a snap of the fingers. The team members must first be empowered to assume this responsibility. The prerequisite for this is that management creates the greatest possible transparency. What work needs to be done, based on which specifications, and with what resources? This information must be readily available not only to the management, but also to all team members at all times. This is an elementary prerequisite for shifting responsibility from management to the team and for giving team members the opportunity to develop an agile mindset towards their work. In its most radical form this means: self-determined teams, joint decisions, team commitments, less push by reporting lines but instead fostering a pull principle for upcoming tasks, and much more. Impulses for further development may and should come from the team in regular review sessions and such retrospective learning should be tackled iteratively. Each team might even decide for itself to what extent titles and functions are still necessary. When everyone is responsible, the right to fail becomes the team’s privilege.
Joining forces to share our insights with the community
It is precisely these competencies that the Liquid Legal Institute’s whitepaper “Agile Working Methods for Legal Departments“ aims to highlight. We want to learn from each other. Agile working—especially in the legal department—has not yet found its way into everyday life everywhere. The Liquid Legal Institute as initiator of the cross-company project on agile working in legal departments (project name: Legal In-house Scrum Master Roundtable) sees itself as a platform for cooperation and exchange: together we define the general part, so that you can jump off our findings and thus define your „special part“ faster and easier and implement it in practical application!
What is our modus operandi? As a group of experienced professionals who took strides into working hands-on with agile methods, all authors took their turn: We all shared our approach, presented our tool landscape, and reported on setbacks and successes. You will find our stories in the white paper. There are no scientific claims, but a broad range of best practices and experiences funneled into one book. Although we talk a lot about Agile, Scrum, KanBan and the like, none of the methods and frameworks are applied here lege artis; instead, our whitepaper outlines ways of how an adaptation from the range of possibilities might look like for a legal department. It is less of a description of the destination of the journey, but rather one of the journey itself.
Fasten your seatbelts & enjoy the read!
“Agile Working Methods for Legal Departments” is a travel guide that initially encourages you to define your individual goal. We start with the respective insights into legal departments before agile ways of working were introduced. Then we introduce agile ways of working followed by a discussion. We provide a handout on how to get started in 10 steps, an overview on what the IT landscape might look like, and we end with a few “outsights”, namely reflections from other firms, from customers within the firm, and from coaches who professionally guide firms in adopting agile methods. Finally, we looked at the 4 principles and 12 values of the Agile Manifesto and discussed them in light of our work reality.
Why? To give you a practical guideline, a framework forunderstanding and building up your own agile environment.The reading should be fun and make it easier for you to get started! We are always happy to receive feedback and suggestions!
For more information please see https://www.liquid-legal-institute.com/library/
Join us as we continue to learn!
Do you want to embark on the journey yourself? The LLI hosts an open exchange for all members called Agile Working in Legal Roundtable. It is a monthly one-hour-long meeting consisting of a member sharing her or his experience, followed by a discussion. Knowledge of one made accessible to all – let us learn together! Join the roundtable here.
Plus: The LLI is working on a similar publication for law firms, as well as for governments & courts. Follow the announcements on LinkedIn: