Measuring the Quality of Your Legal Team

When a new car rolls off the assembly line, every part on it has been checked, double-checked and checked again to make sure it meets the exact specifications and tolerances established by the automotive engineers who designed it. Car manufacturers know that in order to sell more cars, and remain profitable and competitive, they have to keep their quality up.

Now, measuring quality on your legal team isn’t quite as straightforward or engineering-oriented as measuring the specs and tolerances on engines and transmissions. After all, the legal profession is a service, not a product business. And the quality of service businesses is sometimes difficult to measure accurately.

The legal profession has always measured its value based on billable hours, rather than bottom-line results, and this also makes the quality of legal services difficult to determine. But even though it’s more difficult to determine – more ambiguous and subjective – art rather than science – nevertheless, it can be done.

So how do you evaluate the quality of your legal team? It’s not much different than those automotive engineers who sit down and design plans for how they want their cars to look when they finally roll off the assembly line.

You start by outlining the results or outcomes that you hope to achieve from a particular legal engagement, and then clearly communicating those outcomes to your legal team. You want good value for your money, so by defining your expectations and outcomes beforehand, you let your team know what you think is important and valuable in a legal engagement. So define what a successful engagement would look like to you. What results are you hoping to achieve? What are your expectations regarding your legal team? Try to be as specific as possible.

Rather than thinking in terms of win or lose, you may want to consider a range of possible outcomes, from best to worst case. Once you’ve decided on the results you’re looking for, break down the engagement by tasks, and try to estimate the number of hours required for each. You may want to assign areas of task accountability to specific members of the legal team.

On larger projects, you’ll want to set milestones, either in percentage of hours billed or engagement tasks completed, where you can measure ongoing engagement progress. Schedule periodic progress reports and reviews and build them into your engagement contract. When reviewing engagement progress, you’ll need to note any variances from original estimates and expectations and update your progress reports as needed to reflect any changes.

Review all monthly billing statements for accuracy, and you may want to enlist the help of an outside firm that specializes in managing legal financial reporting to assist you with all of the paperwork.

You should also insist on good customer service including:

 Timely notification of any engagement status changes

 Discussion of fees and scope of work before engagement is awarded

 Return phone calls and emails in a timely manner

 Accurate and timely monthly statements

 Specifying lawyers that you want handling your case

Follow these guidelines and you’ll not only have a cost-effective, low-maintenance and smooth-running legal engagement, but you’ll also have a high-powered legal team that’s firing on all cylinders for years to come.

Identity Theft Law – The Legal Implications and Consequences of Identity Fraud

Identity Fraud is a serious offense and identity fraud law has been enacted in the United States of America to curb this growing menace. Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies became aware of the growing incidence of identity theft and passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (ITADA) in 1998 to bring identity thieves to justice and protect the victim.

More often than not identity fraud involves online transactions and the culprit is anonymous and faceless. The process of tracing the culprit is therefore tedious and difficult but not impossible. With increasing use of the internet in day-to-day activities there has been a proportional increase in the number of identity fraud cases.

Tracking down the criminal requires coordination between various federal organizations like the FTC, postal inspection service, United States secret service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice and the credit report agency

Identity fraud law vests the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with the task of receiving complaints from victims of identity theft and providing them the necessary information. The FTC processes the complaint and then refers it to an appropriate authority for further necessary action.

ITADA passed by the United States Senate in 1998 identified identity thefts associated with mortgage, credit card, loans, services and commodities as punishable. With the complexity of identity thefts increasing, the Senate amended the ITADA in 2003.

The ITADA in its amended form makes it illegal for any individual to be knowingly in possession of another person’s identity without lawful authority. If the identity is used to commit, aid or abet any activity that is a violation of Federal law it is a serious federal crime and appropriate legal measures will be initiated.

The ITADA recognizes identity fraud as a serious felony and if guilt is proved in a court of law the culprit could serve up to thirty years in prison in addition to penalties.

California and Wisconsin are two states in the USA that have created an office of privacy protection entrusted with the responsibility of educating citizens about avoiding identity theft and assisting them to cope with and recover from an identity fraud.

California also enacted a data breach notification law that was later emulated by many states. This law stipulates that a company must notify all its customers of any breach of data that is identified.

Currently most states in the United States have enacted special laws to fight identity theft. Most states also have a special section within the Attorney General’s office that deals exclusively with identity theft.

You should intimate the FTC immediately after coming to know about identity theft. You can do this through email or calling up their toll free number or making a personal visit to the local FTC office. You should also inform the credit reporting agency and local police department.

Identity fraud law is relatively new and amendments will be made as conmen devise newer ways of swindling money. Being well informed and prevention is the best way to fight identity fraud.

Advantage of Using BSC For Legal Departments

Using the BSC for legal department measurement and evaluation is a technique that may be employed by a lot of companies in order to determine the performance level of their legal departments. This way, the method of evaluation is made simpler and more efficient with the use of a time-tested and proven evaluation tool.

The legal department of a company is in charge of making sure that the rules, regulations, and policies of the company are being carried out and observed by its members. Also, the department is given the task of handling all the legal matters that may be faced by the company, such as entering into contracts, making proposals, handling internal disputes, discipline of members, and the institution of suits and answering them, in case the company is made subject of one. This shows that the legal department has one of the most critical functions in the company structure. Hence, there is a need to constantly monitor its performance and effectiveness.

The present day has a large demand for satisfactory metrics and performance indicators in order to properly gauge the value of the legal services that are delivered by the concerned department in a company. Being a part of the latter, the success of the company has a large bearing in the success of the legal department because it handles one of the most crucial aspects of the functions of the company.

In taking consideration of the basic perspectives that affect a company, such as the financial, customer, internal business processes, and learning and growth, in relation to the vision and strategy of the company, the performance of each department can be better evaluated because of the specific concentration on each perspective. More so in legal departments, where in certain cases, the very existence of the company is placed on the table. The relationship of the legal department to the company in terms of the four perspectives involved in the balanced scorecard is also highlighted in the determination of its performance level.

As a feature, the balanced scorecard is a very simple measurement and evaluation tool to use in gauging the performance level of a department, or the company as a whole. Also, this instrument is a very economical tool to use. This reality is contrary to the general idea that using performance evaluation tool is a very complicated process, needing the expertise of measurement and evaluation experts and causing the company to incur a lot of expenses. With the fact of its ease of use and economical nature, the company will undoubtedly experience a more efficient evaluation process without the allotment of a lot of expense.

The value of the legal department to a company cannot be discounted. Using the BSC for legal department evaluation will certainly prove to be a good move for the company, considering that efficiency and economy are always in the forefront of the list of objectives of every company. All that has to be done is to know how to implement the tool and everything can be expected to flow downhill from there.