If you are part of a legal department, you are probably already dealing with Legal Operations, whether or not you know it as such. To answer the question”What is Legal Operations?“, it’s important to make a distinction between the two things legal departments focus on. The first is legal work like providing legal advice, managing litigation and/or performing contract review. The second is the strategic prioritisation of work, resource management, technology management, ensuring alignment with the companies’ goals, and so on. The latter is Legal Operations.
According to the ACC Chief Legal Officers 2016 Survey, the percentage of General Counsel (GC) and Corporate Legal Officers (CLO) reporting legal operations staff more than doubled between 2015 and 2016, reaching 48 percent last year. The Legal Operations role can take on different forms depending on the size, maturity and budget of the legal department. Larger legal departments may employ a Legal Operations Director to focus on running the business operations, a Chief of Staff to concentrate on the daily administrative needs of the law department, or a hybrid of both.
We often hear people in the industry say that the legal industry has never been more complex. The expectations of globalised clients have never been higher in terms of the quality of external legal advice as well as the cost efficiency for these services. This stems from economic pressures on companies worldwide as well as incentives for legal departments to reduce their spending on external legal consultations. Furthermore, the entry of legal technology tools as well as New Law firms competing with traditional firms is shaping today’s legal services
The Legal Operations Role
The legal operations position is still not clearly defined. Overall, it includes all business activities and processes applied by individuals who are responsible for optimising legal departments or law firms. The legal operations unit can consist of one or more employees usually integrated into the legal team of a company. Legal operations provide strategic project management techniques and technological expertise to identify opportunities inside of the legal department for increasing efficiency and productivity as well as delivering high-quality results. These legal project managers work closely together in a team with attorneys at the intersection with clients or other business units. They usually report directly to the general counsel.
what to look for in a legal operations manage
Even in teams with no legal operations manager, the responsibilities of legal operations are still being done – even if they are not called so. 44% of respondents in the Legal Operations Benchmarking Report have legal operations tasks assigned to one or more individuals who are not solely dedicated to the legal operations function. In this case, ensure there is someone in the business who is responsible for overseeing the responsibility, this is usually the General Counsel. As long as the skills exist throughout the team and there is an individual responsible for the strategy, your legal department can achieve operational goals without a dedicated manager. You may however need to introduce non-lawyers into the team if the change, technology, data and commercial skills are otherwise lacking. We do however advocate hiring a dedicated resource to manage legal operations. Without a dedicated resource, operations will take a back seat to the practice of advising the business, especially during busy or under-resourced periods. A dedicated manager ensures operational goals get the focus and attention they need.
What are the best tools for legal operations teams?
Need to set up your legal function and scale it fast, but not sure which legal tech you need? Category by category, we’ve curated the best tools to jump start your legal team today. We’ve covered:
- Spend and matter management 💸
- Contract management 📃
- Flexible resourcing 💪
- Contract review 🧐
- Knowhow and research 📖
- Task management 🚦
- E-signing 🖋
- Time tracking ⏱
- Wikis and KM 🗄
How do you build a legal operations team?
Building the right legal ops team for your department involves understanding what you need, hiring the right person for each role, and equipping them to do their job.
- Determine what your department is ready for.
There are three levels of legal operations: admin, optimizer, and strategizer. They all have different responsibilities. The admin-level focuses on basic management activities, such as vendor management, payments, compliance, and reporting. The optimizer-level focuses on improving those processes, and the strategizer focuses on maximizing results. Understanding your legal department’s maturity level will help you pinpoint what position you need to be hiring for.
- Choose what role to hire for based on your needs.
It can be overwhelming to try to build a complete team from scratch, and the time investment can be a drain on your internal resources. If you are just starting out (at the admin level), you need a manager more than you need an analyst.
- Empower your team with the right tech.
Legal operations is not nearly as effective without technology. 67% of chief legal officers say that technology is the main factor for efficiency within their department. Tech allows you to automate manual work, streamline document management, and simplify data collection and reporting to name a few. Your team will need dedicated legal ops software that features e-Billing, reporting and analytics, spend, matter, and vendor management to run efficiently.
he focus of Legal Operations has shifted in the last ten years. Before, the focus was on risk management and trying to reduce outside counsel costs. Today, Legal Operations is an integrated, trusted business partner to the entire organization by identifying opportunities for automated processes and strategically use service providers to drive efficiency (while still reducing costs). As the industry continues to evolve, there will continue to be significant changes in the way that organizations use their data, strategically identifying technology solutions that are adaptable to their evolving business needs, and rethinking service delivery given the various alternative solutions. Once organizations have a better transparency of their data, they can use it to make better decisions about how they provide service to their clients and solve common challenges with the help of technology solutions.
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