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From Intake to Resolution: Understanding and Optimizing Business Law Workflows

Rebecca Spiegel

Written by

Rebecca Spiegel

|

March 17, 2023

From Intake to Resolution: Understanding and Optimizing Business Law Workflows

It is essential for business law firms (or corporate law firms) to be aware of the ways workflows can help increase efficiency and reduce costs. This article will discuss leveraging workflows for increased productivity and cost savings in corporate law firms.

Corporate lawyers are sometimes referred to as business people dressed up as lawyers, and it’s because you have to have an excellent mind for business while counseling your clients. This business acumen includes advising on incorporating companies, corporate governance, mergers, and acquisitions, drafting contracts and agreements, negotiating deals, and providing legal counsel as needed.

Workflows are one way business law firms can streamline processes to get more done with less time and effort while still providing an excellent service. By automating repetitive tasks, organizing data in an accessible manner, establishing clear guidelines for tasks, and implementing templates for documents and contract reviews, corporate law firms can create effective systems that will increase productivity and reduce costs associated with servicing clients. Let’s walk through how a corporate law firm can design and implement workflows.

Running a streamlined business law firm 

Transactional law firms face a challenging workload, with a high volume of cases, strict deadlines, complex tasks, and demanding clients. Many corporate and business lawyers have yet to incorporate workflows into their practices to manage workloads in these situations effectively.

Without streamlined processes, many firms struggle with inefficiently spent time on repetitive tasks or risk missing deadlines. Additionally, law firms may need more resources, such as staff and technology, to take on more clients. As a result, transactional law firms often need help with scaling their businesses. 

Automated legal workflows helps teamwork and makes the dream work

Legal teams can save time by automating recurring tasks in organized sequences. Consider workflows as automated checklists that help ensure your legal team meets deadlines, seamlessly collaborates, and keeps client communication consistent. 

Implementing workflows in business law firms can improve processes, optimize your practice management, and improve employee satisfaction (not to mention client satisfaction). Creating workflows within your practice management tool will allow you to track assigned tasks and deadlines, maintain accurate records of completed work, and increase staff collaboration.

Working for the workflow

Taking the first step towards implementing workflows can be overwhelming for any law firm, but there are steps that firms can take to get started. Start by identifying repeatable processes such as contract drafting, document approvals, client intake/onboarding, and billing. These are often the most time-consuming tasks in a legal workflow but can be easily optimized within a workflow with the help of practice management tools like document automation, automatic time tracking, and automated messaging. 

Read more: Document Automation, An Ultimate Guide

The process of evaluating work and turning everyday tasks into a workflow can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Identify the tasks involved. Make a list of all the tasks required to complete the work, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. 
  2. Determine the sequence of tasks. You can determine the dependencies between tasks to ensure your legal team completes them in the correct order.
  3. Identify the resources needed for each task. Reduce resistance to completing a task by, for example, attaching your Fee Agreement/Letter of Engagement template for that task. Determine the time required. Estimate the time needed to complete each task to manage your time effectively.
  4. Implement the workflow. Consider training employees on the new workflow, updating procedures and policies, and monitoring its effectiveness over time.

Once you start working through the workflows, don’t forget that you can continuously refine them. Perfection should not stand in the way of progress. You want to make your workflow effective, efficient, and tailored to your needs. This way, your business law firm can create a more successful system that will help you meet your goals over the long term.

Workflows for corporate law firms

Implementing automated workflows can help business law firms get ahead in an ever-changing industry. By leveraging automated software solutions, corporate law firms can reduce the time spent on mundane and repetitive tasks to free up resources for more lucrative matters. Automating these processes also increases accuracy and transparency across teams, making it easier for everyone to stay informed about their progress.

As you set out to create workflows for your law firm, remember that a nuanced approach is necessary for each task involved. While it's important to consider all aspects and dependencies related to each task, you need to strike a balance to avoid creating too many small steps. Striking this balance will allow for a smooth process without sacrificing essential tasks. So, finding the right balance between detail and efficiency is key to creating effective workflows for your law firm.

Legal client intake and onboarding

When onboarding a new client, a corporate law firm needs to take specific steps to ensure that the client is well informed about the firm’s services, procedures, and fees. The firm also needs to ensure it has all the necessary information to provide high-quality legal services. Some of the specific steps that a corporate law firm may take when onboarding a new client include:

  1. Provide the client with the initial intake form before the consultation.
  2. Schedule and send reminders to the client for the initial consultation. 
  3. Capture any additional information that came from the consultation. 
  4. Draft, review, and send the Fee Agreement/Letter of Engagement. 

Read more about Legal Intake: What to Know and How to Improve with Legal Tech

Incorporating/forming a business 

The steps required to file for a specific type of business entity (such as LLC, PLLC, or S-corp) can vary depending on the state and jurisdiction of the business. However, corporate law firms may take some general steps when filing for a new business entity. Here are the steps a corporate or business law firm should take when opening an LLC for a client:

  1. Identify the client’s business needs and goals. Discuss the client’s business structure, tax implications, and liability concerns to determine if an LLC is the best option.
  2. Ensure the client’s business name is available for use. Check for availability, as the name must comply with state regulations and not infringe on any existing trademarks.
  3. Prepare and file the Articles of Organization with the appropriate state agency. This document includes the LLC’s name, address, purpose, and the managers or members’ names.
  4. Draft an Operating Agreement that outlines the LLC’s management structure, member contributions, and profit and loss allocations. (if applicable)
  5. Confirm receipt and document the Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 
  6. Obtain any necessary licenses or permits required by the state or local government.
  7. Maintain proper records and follow ongoing compliance requirements, such as annual reports, taxes, and other filings.

Business contracts

Look - most of your workload revolves around contracts. Creating workloads around drafting and reviewing contracts might be beneficial, so you can easily trigger a new workload when something comes up. 

Drafting contracts

Deliver contracts that meet the client’s legal requirements and business objectives. When drafting any significant contract matter, such as partnership agreements and buy-sell agreements, use the following workflow to ensure that you are providing optimal service. 

This workflow assumes we’re drafting a Partnership Agreement: 

  1. Meet with the client. Discuss their goals, expectations, and other important information about the proposed partnership. 
  2. Identify key terms. Key terms may include the partnership’s structure, each partner’s roles and responsibilities, profit sharing, decision-making, and dispute resolution.
  3. Draft the partnership agreement. Draft a partnership agreement that reflects the client’s needs and objectives. 
  4. Review and revise. Make any necessary revisions at this time.
  5. Get signatures for the partnership agreement.

Reviewing contracts

Contract review is an integral part of the legal services that business law firms provide, as it helps businesses avoid legal disputes and minimize their risks. Business law firms may review various types of contracts, including employment, partnership, non-disclosure, service, purchase, and lease agreements. For major contracts, like employment contracts, purchases or sales of business, the workflow you build out will have specific dependencies, specific tasks, and documents attached to tasks. 

Let's take a look at a workflow for an employment contract: 

  1. Determine the client's needs and desired outcomes from the employment contract.
  2. Conduct an initial review of the contract to identify potential issues or areas of concern.
  3. Address identified risks with the client and provide recommendations for negotiating the contract.
  4. Engage in negotiations with the other party to reach a satisfactory agreement.
  5. Revise and finalize the agreement, including any revisions to executive employment agreements, compensation, equity, and employment duration negotiations.
  6. Review the contract for enforceability, both written and implied.
  7. Present the findings and recommendations to the client.
  8. Negotiate the severance package, if applicable.
  9. Obtain signatures on the finalized contract.

Merger & Acquisition Workflow

When working on a merger & acquisition matter for a client, a corporate law firm typically takes the following case stages, so it’s important to map out your firm’s standard task flow associated with each. Below you’ll see an example of a suggested Due Diligence workflow.

  1. Conduct due diligence.
  2. Strategize on how to structure the deal.
  3. Draft the Letter of Intent and Confidentiality Agreement. 
  4. Negotiate terms with opposing counsel/party.
  5. Draft and review the Purchase Agreement. 
  6. Obtain regulatory approvals. (if applicable)
  7. Get signatures on all of the agreements. 

Due Diligence Workflow

  1. Meet with the client to set goals and priorities for the due diligence period. 
  2. Collect facts and documents through interviews and document requests. 
  • (PRO TIP: You can add more information to tasks, like a checklist that gives a template for what needs to be investigated. For this step, you could highlight the different areas to investigate: organization/ownership, litigation, product/service, obligations, licenses, intellectual property, material assets, and HR/operations)
  1. Run a UCC Search and/or run a search in Dun & Bradstreet. 
  2. Analyze research. Create a full picture of the company to formulate a legal opinion on the sale or purchase.
  3. Meet with the client to present information. Describe reviewed documents, analysis of key issues, and provide recommendations for solutions to presented issues.

Buying & Selling a Business

Buying or selling a business can be a complex process that involves numerous legal and financial considerations. You help your clients navigate this process by providing legal advice and guidance on each step, from the initial letter of intent to the final purchase agreement. 

General steps that a business law firm may take on behalf of your client when buying or selling a business:

  1. Assess the client’s needs and goals.
  2. Launch Due Diligence workflow
  3. Draft the Letter of Intent. 
  4. Negotiate with the opposing counsel/party.
  5. Draft and review the final Purchase Agreement. 
  6. Obtain necessary approvals and permits.
  7. Close the transaction.

Give up good business law and go for great business law

Running a transactional law firm, like a business law firm, can be challenging due to the never-ending workflow. It pays to take calculated risks when making decisions that could affect profitability. Implementing effective workflows that address client intake and onboarding, incorporation of companies, contracts, drafting, and review can help to maximize profitability while cutting costs. By revising and updating these workflows regularly, lawyers can ensure they are meeting the needs of their clients so that everyone benefits.

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