April 19, 2022
By MalbekReading Time: 3 minutes
The legal profession has historically seen itself as unique and exempt from the constraints and concerns that have dominated the business sphere. With the rise of technology and its role increasing in power and influence over how businesses run, the legal profession now is coming around to the idea of not being a cost center and the department of no to a value creator and the department of can do.
What has aided the legal department in transforming into a business partner and value creator, in part, has been the legal operations role. Yet, many persistent myths surround legal operations, the purpose it serves, and how best to develop such a function. Like most things, a legal operations function needs a solid foundation to grow.
It Starts with Hiring
The foundation begins by recruiting and hiring people who can speak both the “traditional” language of legal (words) and the “traditional” language of business (numbers and data). Legal operations individuals also possess both process improvement acumen and technological know-how that they can use to evaluate and improve existing processes and assess potential new tools to put in place to facilitate better productivity and efficiency. As for the specific backgrounds of legal operations professionals, they have diverse backgrounds. Some are former consultants or finance professionals. Others may be former attorneys or paralegals. All bring a wealth of experience working with legal professionals and the ability to bridge the gap between the legal, finance, and technology worlds.
Bridging the Business and Legal Gap
Although not a legal operations professional myself, I have often functioned in this role in the various legal departments that I have been a part of. Given their small size and the need for me to be a cross-functional business partner and enable business growth while also protecting the company against excessive levels of risk, this meant I needed to take on a variety of CLOC’s 12 Competencies outlined in its 12 Competencies Reference Model. Of these 12 competencies, two that I took on and developed for myself were knowledge management, managing outside legal spending, and technology management and support.
The Contract Management Conundrum
Contract lifecycle management is one area that illustrates these two competencies coming into play. As someone who has long lived in the world of contracts, managing a small number of them doesn’t seem to be an insurmountable task. Yet, that small number can and often does increase exponentially when working for a fast-growing company. As the number of contacts grows, so does the challenge of managing them (and so does the complexity of the contracts themselves)! Practically, this means that your manual management process may require something that is less time-consuming and more efficient.
Contract Complexities Pre and Post Award
Legal operations individuals know that drafting and negotiating contracts is one thing and that managing them is quite another. Managing them requires the input and support of several business functions since contract obligations have far-reaching impacts. This is where having the proper processes and tools in place can make a world of difference and allow for better and more strategic contracting. Managing contracts includes not just ensuring that the right people review the agreement and its terms but also tracking key milestones and deadlines and gathering data regarding common contracting pain points and preferred fallback clauses.
Choosing the Right Tech
Technology can help here but finding the right technological tool can often be an overwhelming, time-consuming task in itself. This is where having a legal operations professional, or simply someone who can take on some of the duties of a legal operations role, can be immensely helpful. That person will have the experience and knowledge to navigate the contract management space and, ideally, after doing an audit of your company’s existing processes, be able to suggest ways to improve the processes and potentially integrate a new technological tool or service to help automate and expedite contract lifecycle management.
The importance of having individuals who can bridge the knowledge and skills gap between the legal, finance, and technology worlds cannot be overstated. Businesses do not operate in a vacuum, and neither should their individual departments. Legal operations effectively serves as the glue that brings these different teams together, especially when it comes to developing the right processes and selecting the best tools to be used by the right people.
If you are eager to learn more about this fast-growing and exciting space, please consider attending Agents of Change: Leveling up Legal Operations to Maximize Business Growth where Matt Patel, Co-Founder and COO of Malbek and two legal operations leaders will discuss legal operations best practices!