Best practices

A priority framework for in-house legal requests

February 15, 2024
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Streamline AI

Table of Contents

The ability of in-house legal teams to discern the urgent from the important, and the critical from the non-critical, is not just a skill—it's a necessity. Many business stakeholders — from sales account executives looking to close a deal to the marketing manager putting together marketing launch materials — are naturally inclined to mark their requests as "urgent." This presents a challenge for in-house legal teams to sift through the noise, prioritize effectively, and ensure optimal resource allocation.

Why in-house legal teams need a legal priority framework for requests

Implementing a priority framework for legal requests is crucial for:

  • Streamlining efficiency: It prioritizes tasks effectively, separating urgent from less critical tasks to boost process efficiency and deliver value quickly within constraints.
  • Adapting to changes: It offers the flexibility needed to reallocate resources in response to shifting business priorities, keeping focus on the most pressing issues.
  • Aligning with objectives: It ensures legal teams concentrate on activities that align with business goals and enhance customer satisfaction, promoting strategic alignment and resource management.
  • Managing risk: Essential for identifying and prioritizing tasks based on risk, ensuring that high-risk issues are addressed promptly, safeguarding against potential legal challenges.
  • Optimizing processes: Creating a well-defined framework for prioritizing legal requests enables the measurement of the volume of requests by their priority level. If a consistent pattern of high-priority request volumes becomes apparent, it indicates the necessity to re-evaluate and enhance business processes or to expand the legal team's size. This adjustment ensures timely responses to high-priority requests, aligning with growing business demands.

Best practices when creating a framework for legal priority levels

A prioritization framework involves a systematic approach to evaluating and ranking legal requests based on their urgency, impact, and resources required. It establishes clear criteria for decision-making, helping legal teams focus on what matters most and allocate resources efficiently.

Some best practices for creating and implementing a legal request priority framework include:

  • Establish clear evaluation criteria: Define specific, measurable criteria for prioritizing legal tasks, such as risk level, impact on business operations, legal deadlines, and strategic importance to the organization. This ensures consistency and objectivity in decision-making.
  • Implement a tiered system: Create a tiered priority system to categorize legal requests based on their urgency and importance. This helps quickly identify which legal matters require immediate attention and which can be scheduled for later.
  • Incorporate input from key stakeholders: Partner with key stakeholders to understand their needs and expectations to shape the framework. This collaborative approach ensures that the legal team's priorities align with overall business goals and builds trust and cooperation. This secures buy-in from the top and promotes widespread adoption of the framework across the organization.
  • Utilize technology for increased efficiency: Leverage legal technology software solutions, like Streamline AI, for smart and automated legal intake and triage of legal requests based on the framework. Streamline AI's legal front door software solution can help efficiently manage and prioritize legal requests, automate review and workflow routing, track progress, and maintain visibility across the legal team and its business partners.
  • Review and optimize the framework based on priorities: Establish a cadence for review of the framework based on new information, completed requests, and changing business objectives. This dynamic approach allows the legal department to remain agile and responsive to the organization's needs as they change.

A sample legal request priority framework

Ilan Hornstein, Vice President, Deputy General Counsel of 8×8 and founder of BeyondNDA, shares his framework for legal request priority levels:

General principles for the legal priority framework

  • Initial priority setting: Requesters set initial priority and deadline. 
  • Approvals required for high priority levels: Requestors should have business department leadership approval before setting the priority level as a P2, as it overrides other work for that department. Setting the priority as P1 or P0s requires executive approval because of the cross-company impact.
  • Priority calibration: The requestor and legal team will collaborate to calibrate the appropriateness of the priority level. Each business department can only have one P2 and one P1 at a time.

The legal priority framework

Access the template of the legal priority framework created by Ilan Hornstein

For in-house legal teams, navigating the influx of legal requests requires more than just hard work; it demands smart ways of working. A legal priority framework is not just a tool but a strategic asset, enabling legal teams to act with purpose and precision when triaging requests. By prioritizing effectively, managing resources wisely, and keeping an eye on risks, legal departments can support and drive business success, ensuring that they are always working on what matters most.

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