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Legal Operations 101: Function in today’s enterprise

With the right vision and investment of time, technology introduced by legal ops can often integrate with systems across the organization to produce better business intelligence and analytics at the enterprise level.

Hong Kong has long marketed itself as an international business centre that is free from China's authoritarian controls - © AFP Anthony WALLACE
Hong Kong has long marketed itself as an international business centre that is free from China's authoritarian controls - © AFP Anthony WALLACE

A legal operations function is now expected in any modern legal department, and according to recent research, the number of organisations with a dedicated legal operations team has risen year on year for the past five years.

To understand more about developments with enterprise legal departments, Digital Journal sought the views of Michael Callier, VP, Head of Solutions at Factor.

Digital Journal: Why is ‘legal ops’ important?

Michael Callier: Legal ops is also an increasingly popular way for legal departments to manage information and knowledge. With globalization, the ongoing rapid growth of technology, and further integrated commercial activity, businesses are taking in more and more information, which requires management. Legal ops professionals are helping to streamline information management and weather the daily firestorm of data coming into many legal departments.

If you aren’t familiar with legal operations, here is an in-depth explanation of legal ops and its role in today’s business environment.

DJ: What is a legal operations function exactly?

Callier: Legal operations refers to the operated environment – including the workflows and efficiencies – associated with the delivery of legal services. The legal operators or a legal operations manager role typically covers everything but substantive legal work – like corporate transactions and litigation. Accordingly, legal ops professionals do not necessarily need law degrees.

Legal ops help with all the aspects of delivering legal service that lawyers are not necessarily trained to do at law firms. Although law firms provide excellent substantive training, they incentivize lawyers to maximize their billable hours – an antithetical approach to working as efficiently as possible. That’s where legal ops comes in — when lawyers transition in-house, legal ops helps introduce efficient ways for lawyers to deliver legal services.

Legal operations should define and drive initiatives to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the legal department. Among its chief responsibilities are:

  • Managing outside counsel guidelines, legal spend, and the department’s budget (including visibility into, control of, and reduction of legal spend.)
  • Optimizing third-party (law firms, ALSPs, tech vendors, etc.) resource performance for maximum value.
  • Implementing, measuring, and analyzing metrics that inform decision-making, turning those metrics into actionable ways to improve.
  • Implementing tools, such as technology and knowledge artefacts (including playbooks, templates, and checklists), to achieve departmental goals.
  • Working across the enterprise to demonstrate the legal department’s value within the
  • Performing data analytics and reporting to contribute to overall business intelligence and knowledge management.

DJ: Why should an organisation invest in Legal Operations?

Callier: In short, legal operations help to maximize the productivity and profitability of the legal department. By shaping the department’s focus areas – and introducing metrics and KPIs that measure and benchmark those focus areas – legal ops helps to define long-term and short-term improvements. It can place greater emphasis on data-driven decisions too, as legal ops converts data into information, which then becomes knowledge for the department.

With dedicated legal operations resources helping to optimize the legal department and demonstrating value to internal stakeholders, practitioners can spend more time doing what they love and do best – practicing law and serving clients. Legal ops can also drive stronger relationships with vendors and law firms to increase their transparency and value to the business.

By deploying technology and consistent processes across the department, legal ops helps to standardize and automate repetitive and administrative tasks, such as invoice review, allowing staff to focus on more strategic work and contribute to higher-value projects. With the right vision and investment of time, technology introduced by legal ops can often integrate with systems across the organization to produce better business intelligence and analytics at the enterprise level.

DJ: Where to start with implementing Legal Operations?

Callier: Organisations aiming to leverage legal ops should begin by seeking out an expert. While this may be a challenge in the current labor market and as legal ops isn’t the oldest trade, it’s still worth getting a head start with a guide who knows the ropes.

Try to remove barriers by giving legal ops a strategic seat at the table. Give them an opportunity to improve discreet pain points in the legal department and lead cross-departmental initiatives like contract life-cycle management and data integration projects.

With the general counsel’s backing, legal operations can make enterprise-wide impacts and increase legal’s strategic value to the business.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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