What is the context?
Although the policies and programs of Budget 2022-23 will not be known until Tuesday night, the direction of the Government is well established.
A combined $1.3 billion worth of spending cuts were promised during the election, with the PBO Report outlining that $500 million worth of savings would be found from cutting expenditure on external labour for hire and consultants.
Given internal legal budgets will not be expanded, we must ask ourselves, how can we find uplift.
In the Legal Services Expenditure Report for 2020-21, released in September 2022, it was reported that the Commonwealth spent $1,050,608,435 on legal services in 2020-21, half of which was spent internally running Business as Usual (BAU).
With the constant need for legal support, many internal lawyers will feel that this budget falls far short of the demand they experience for legal services. However, by implementing a business lens to the legal profession, it is possible to make routine BAU more effective and efficient and provide room for more strategic value-adding advice to be provided, where it should be.
Lawyers have always been expected to provide sound legal advice in a timely manner. Internal stakeholders also expect their internal lawyers to provide legal advice that is both commercially sound and succinct.
Today lawyers and legal teams within the APS are being asked to do all of the above plus proactively anticipate and address business risk before it becomes an issue for the business. All this is expected to be done, but now with less resources and budget.
The question is therefore: how can we become more with less?
Answer: we need to build the next generation of a departmental legal team.
What is the need?
Given our public servants are over worked as is, we need find a way to evolve and become superpowered in output.
The age-old solution to increasing output without increasing input is to become extremely efficient.
We know that the core objective of a government legal practice is to administer the portfolio legislation and manage the agency’s key legal risks. In addition, we know there is a broader appetite for transformational changes to the workforce and operating environment, and with the ever-growing complexity of laws affecting Departments and Agencies, demand for legal services is growing substantially.
The inefficiency in dealing with the administration of portfolio legislation and the management of key legal risks limits the ability for legal division to meet the expectations of today whilst preparing for the problems of tomorrow.
Legal teams need to upgrade their skills and capabilities by creating a suite of tools that allow BAU to be conducted more efficiently and effectively. By streamlining policies, processes, and procedures you can uplift capability in governance, risk management, control, and assurance. Through this process of standardisation, and potential automation of simpler tasks, we can empower our junior lawyers to complete these tasks to the standard of a senior lawyer. General Counsels should not be required to do basic legal tasks – and by defining the ideal tactic and approach, we can empower our junior staff to complete routine work that has previously drained the time of senior lawyers.
Another significant advantage for General Counsels is that by empowering junior lawyers, GCs are able to use their legal knowledge to help contribute to the broader departmental change. The APS transformation agenda require changes to organisational structure, capability models, governance and accountability, current and future work design, practice management systems, and service delivery. Rather than just advising on risk, GCs should be able to present opportunities that are legally defensible. By presenting these risks and opportunities, GCs can help deliver departmental change by using their skills and knowledge and adding value in a new way to the department.
How can we help you?
At Synergy Law, we have developed a solution that delivers a streamlined and more efficient Legal Framework within which to do your Business of Law.
We can offer the following services along with an implementation plan to achieve your outcomes, depending on the maturity level of your legal division/branch:
- Our output: A review of practice management, capabilities, capacity, and culture
Your benefit: This helps you understand where the challenges and problems are, providing a foundation to propel future growth and improvement.
- Our output: Review and modernisation of an Operating Model
Your benefit: Helps you communicate the ‘service offering’ of the legal division/branch and why the Department requires a legal team by defining the role, requirements, and responsibilities of legal divisions.
- Our output: Development of a Legal Practice Management Framework
Your benefit: To provide clarity, consistency and a shared understanding of your practice governance and risk management.
- Our output: Development of a Costings Framework
Your benefit: To support bids for budgets and options to bid for more to support legal operations. This helps people understand the value in legal services, the cost for it and helps teams factor this into budget bids.
If this piques your interest, please contact Bobbi Campbell at Synergy Law to have a discussion on how your legal division can become superpowered and industry leading.