Do You Measure Up? Proving That Legal Departments Are More Than a Cost Center

General Counsel (GC) across most industries remain under pressure to operate efficiently, cut costs and maximize existing resources. In order to properly measure just how successful a Lawyer is operating today under these mandates, it is vital that in-house legal teams have a system of metrics and measurements in place. By measuring efficiencies, GCs can demonstrate their value to the organization and can provide proof points that help their legal department gain the trust and respect of company executives.

Are GCs on board?

In a recent survey, GCs were asked, “Do Metrics Provide a Useful and Accurate Measure of the Legal Department’s Value to the Business?” In response, 66% of General Counsel (GC) said that metrics do not provide a good measure of the legal department’s value. Additionally, most GCs reported that they do not use metrics to assess the legal department’s performance (58%), and they do not believe that metrics assist in analyzing the legal department’s value (66%).

Measuring cost vs. value

Why? When considering Conferences metrics generally, they are most often designed to measure only the legal department’s cost to the organization, rather than the department’s value. For example, the most common metrics in legal departments are:

* Legal expenses as a percentage of corporate revenue

* The cost of outside counsel

* Internal Legal Process Outsourcing department costs

* Cost per matter

* Average billing rate

It’s easy to see that these metrics are more about cost than value. To accurately capture value, a legal department needs to tell a complete and balanced story and show not simply the dollars being spent by a Lawyer, but how much that department has saved the organization from spending or losing. There are a number of methods to measure both the tangible and intangible value of a legal department. Here are a few:

* Feedback from client surveys that focus on quality of service, efficiency, commerciality and communication

* Assessing matter success rates

* Calculating dollars saved by negotiating better rates or AFAs with outside counsel

* Documentation of the where the LPO team added commercial value in a matter

* Tracking of the actual risks that were avoided

* Tracking the cost of internal legal resource against external hourly spend

* Regular reports to the business and/or board of directors

Going back to the aforementioned survey, most GCs believed their in-house legal teams were viewed as both legal counsel and strategic business partner. In fact only 19% reported that their in-house teams were seen purely as legal counsel. This demonstrates that GCs are being asked to play a greater strategic role in their organizations. It also reinforces the need for GCs to use metrics to prove value. As we approach mid-year, GCs will likely continue to search for new ways to heighten the efficiency of their departments, while working steadily to provide more value to their organizations as strategic partners.

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Legal Transcription Companies in the US – Make the Right Choice

Legal transcription outsourcing has become the need of the hour. Lawyers, attorneys, law companies and other legal professionals / entities increasingly choose to entrust the transcription jobs to a reputable transcription company to save labor and time. These companies transcribe various legal reports such as legal letters, court proceedings, client letters, reports, court transcripts, arbitration’s, interrogations, legal pleadings, trials, and general correspondence.

How to Choose the Best Legal Transcription Service Provider

There are a number of legal transcription companies in the US that provide legal transcription services. However, to choose a competent and dedicated company from among the vast number of service providers is a big challenge. There are certain factors you need to consider when hiring a transcription company.

The first and most important point to check is the credibility and reputation of the firm. Taking feedback from the existing clients of the firm can prove to be helpful in determining this.

Most transcription companies provide a free trial of their services. This is the best way to get a firsthand experience of their services. During this free trial you should check the following:

• Infrastructure
• Accuracy of final draft
• Turnaround time
• Promptness and responsiveness of the staff
• Professionalism and skill of the staff
• Whether they have excellent measures to safeguard confidentiality and security
• Dedication towards customer service

This would surely provide a basic idea as to the working process and the level of commitment of the staff and the company as a whole.

What Are the Qualities That Legal Transcription Companies Should Possess?

When it comes to accuracy, nothing below 99 percent is acceptable in this regard. Hence, it is inevitable for any firm to employ the best staff to get accurate results. Apart from this, to enhance performance of their staffs, most reliable firms impart training sessions to keep them updated with the changing demands and expectations of their clients.

Also, a three level quality assurance check of every document has become the rule. To get the best, most accurate and error-free output these companies are recruiting professional proofreaders, editors and transcriptionists to review the documents. Only after a document is approved at all the three levels, it is handed over to the client.

It is equally important to maintain the security of the legal documents. No compromise is acceptable when it comes to confidentiality and security. So it is the responsibility of the company to adopt the required measures for ensuring complete security and privacy for client data.

Apart from this, the legal transcription firm should also provide:

• Affordable and competitive rates
• Quick turnaround time
• Convenient dictation options (toll-free number/digital recorder) according to client preference
• Facility of electronic signatures
• 24/7 customer support and technical assistance

Considering the above guidelines when choosing an outsourcing partner from among the numerous legal transcription companies in the US will help you find the right firm. It is advisable to go for a provider that has facilities in the US and offshore, if you are looking for affordable services and round-the-clock service.

Child Soldiers – A Brief Legal Survey

The concept of a ‘child soldier’ – the involvement of children (through recruitment or otherwise) in the violence and brutality of armed conflict – is abhorrent to most adults who consider the matter. This is borne out by the fact that there are a number of international conventions and other mechanisms which condemn the practice and which create an international framework to combat it.

Who are child soldiers? The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (see below) defines a child as a person below the age of eighteen years. However, for the purpose of restricting recruitment into the armed forces of a State Party to the Convention, and for the requirement that States Parties “take all feasible measures to ensure” that children “do not take a direct part in hostilities”, the Convention uses the lower age of fifteen years (Article 38).

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (see below) uses the age of eighteen years to condemn the recruitment of children, or their use in hostilities, by armed groups that are distinct from the armed forces of a State (Article 4).

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (see below) includes, within the definition of “war crimes”, the crime of conscripting or enlisting children, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, by either national armed forces or any armed group (Articles 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and 8(2)(e)(vii)). For these purposes, a child is a person below the age of fifteen years.

Where are child soldiers used? Child soldiers may be found both in government armed forces and in armed groups which oppose the central governments of their countries. The Coalition to Stop the use of Child Soldiers, which was launched in 1998 by several groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, reports that the majority of children under the age of 18 years, who are involved in conflict, are associated with armed groups.

The Coalition reports that Africa has the largest number of child soldiers. Children are being used in armed conflict in countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Sudan. It also reports child soldiers in various Asian countries, such as Myanmar and Indonesia, in the Middle East and in Latin America.

Because the Coalition campaigns for a complete prohibition of all recruitment and use for military purposes of persons under the higher age of 18 years, its web site notes that the United States, and such other western countries as Austria, Australia, France, Germany, the United kingdom and Canada, are countries which recruit children (that is, persons under the age of 18) into their armies.

How are child soldiers used? Most publicity surrounding child soldiers has focused on their use in non-western countries by both armed groups and government armed forces. Such publicity makes it clear that child soldiers are used in these countries to fight and kill, participating directly in combat. They may also be used to loot and destroy property; to lay mines and explosives; to scout, spy and act as decoys. Girls are widely reported to be used for sexual purposes and for domestic tasks, as well as for these other purposes.

Important International Conventions: The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child entered into force in September 1990. As noted above, Article 38 of that Convention deals with the issue of children in the context of a country’s armed forces and of hostilities generally. In paragraph 4, the Article states that, “States Parties shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by armed conflict”.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force in 2002. It requires that States Parties “take all feasible measures” to ensure that members of their armed forces who are under the age of 18 “do not take a direct part in hostilities” (Article 1) and requires that children under that age not be compulsorily recruited (Article 2). (Voluntary recruitment of children between the ages of 15 and 18 into a State’s armed forces is not banned by the Convention or the Protocol.)

Article 3 of the Optional Protocol requires that States Parties that permit under-18 voluntary recruitment must maintain certain safeguards (including ensuring the informed consent of the child’s parents or legal guardians). States Parties are also required to take “all feasible measures” to prevent recruitment and use by armed groups of children under the age of 18, including the adoption of legal measures necessary “to prohibit and criminalize such practices”.

The International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour came into force in November 2000. The Convention defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. Ratifying States are required to take urgent measures to secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, among which are included “forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed forces”.

Enforcement: A body of independent experts, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, was established further to Article 43 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Committee monitors the implementation of the Convention and the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. States Parties must submit regular reports to the Committee.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone (which was established by the United Nations and the Sierra Leone government in 2002) handed down the first convictions by an international tribunal for the crime of recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) entered into force on July 1, 2002. The first trial before the ICC, which started, after long delays, on January 26, 2009, deals with the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting child soldiers under the age of 15 years and of using them to participate actively in armed conflict. This trial, described as a landmark event in the development of international law, should bring increased public attention to the issue of child soldiers.