Legal operations is a fast-moving, evolving, and varied discipline. To be effective, legal operations leaders must engage in various areas – from setting budgets, to selecting priorities, to managing people, and many others. As the function has grown, the CLOC community has collaborated to define a clear framework for practicing legal operations. While every company and team has its own unique needs, the guidance in these functional areas – known as the “Core 12” – apply to many environments and requirements.
Whether you are just getting started in setting up a legal operations function, or building on your existing capabilities, the information and resources here can help. By leveraging the guidance and best practices of others, you can save time, accelerate your progress and get more done.
• The core competencies are used as the reference model for achieving operational excellence by in-house legal teams.
• Legal operations professionals, working with their GCs and legal leadership teams, use the core competencies to develop strategic and tactical plans to create service delivery models (in-house, law firm, LSO, and tech solutions) to deliver the right quality of legal support at the right cost by executing against those competencies.
• Each core competency is comprised of several sub-core competencies.
|Business Intelligence||Make better decisions through data.
Current reality: In-house departments today often make minimal use of data and metrics. They may struggle to access or identity the right data and lack the culture or tools to make consistent use of analytics.
Desired state: Manage and guide your organization through the strategic use of data, not intuition. Uncover hidden trends, find new efficiencies, and focus your team on clear and measurable outcomes that make a difference to the business.
|Financial Management||Maximize your resources through sound financial management.
Current reality: In-house departments may operate with little clarity or predictability in their budgeting. This can lead to unexpected shortfalls, tensions with the business, and a lack of financial context when making investment decisions.
Desired state: Develop a strong and sustainable approach to financial management. Use your resources responsibly and help everyone on the team understand how spending connects to outcomes.
|Firm & Vendor Management||Develop firm and vendor relationships that deliver value.
Current reality: Today, firms and vendors are often selected either for tactical reasons or due to personal relationships. Lacking clear alternatives, in-house teams may default to traditional pricing and staffing models, which can deliver less accountability and value.
Desired state: Create, sustain, and strengthen firm and vendor relationships that support your business needs. Bring in talent and expertise that complements your own capabilities. Define flexible, fair terms that improve transparency and reward value and innovation.
|Information Governance||Design information policies that fit your business and minimize risk.
Current reality: In many cases, in-house departments will have little or no structure in their information governance. They manage this loosely, if at all, making it difficult to get access to the right information and exposing the company to possible risk.
Desired state: Define and implement clear, comprehensive guidelines for sharing and retaining information. Support your team and cut risk by determining which digital and physical documents should be preserved to remain in compliance with your corporate standards and legal imperatives.
|Knowledge Management||Tap the knowledge and capability of your entire organization.
Current reality: Today, departments often struggle to find and retain knowledge and best practices. Most rely on unstructured “tribal knowledge” that fails to scale as the team grows or changes, forcing costly re-work.
Desired state: Save team time and improve outcomes by making it easier to find answers and best practices. Nurture a culture of sharing, mutual support, and documentation across the organization.
|Organization Optimization & Health||Build effective and motivated teams.
Current reality: Often, in-house teams are assembled without a clear overall vision, meaning they may hire for short-term need rather than overall fit and long-term effectiveness. In many cases, key aspects of the employee experience – such as career planning, skills development, and job satisfaction – are overlooked today.
Desired state: Design and support balanced, driven, high-impact teams. Hire for team fit and bring in a diverse, complementary mix of skills and perspectives. Identify potential leaders and encourage promising careers through targeted programs that enhance the teams’ education, experiences and exposure. Help foster a positive and engaged culture through offsites and skills development.
|Practice Operations||Free up your legal teams through focused practice operations.
Current reality: In many in-house departments, lawyers often wear many hats out of necessity and end up handling tasks that don't require a legal degree. Tasks often aren't assigned strategically or with expertise in mind. This adds cost and reduces their ability to contribute elsewhere.
Desired state: Enable your lawyers to practice law and minimize the extent they are distracted by operational tasks and projects. Create flexible, efficient teams trained and experienced in practice specific operations such as eDiscovery, contracts management, IP management, and more.
|Project/Program Management||Launch and support special programs and initiatives.
Current reality: Most corporate legal departments lack specialized program management skills and experience, making it difficult for them to implement effective initiatives at scale.
Desired state: Design, implement, and lead department-wide and company-wide initiatives that work. Take on complex special projects without losing focus or effectiveness elsewhere.
|Service Delivery Models||Match the right work to the right resource.
Current reality: In-house departments often assign work indiscriminately today, sending it to a “default” firm or vendor. This can lead to increased cost and diminished speed and quality.
Desired state: Create a complementary ecosystem of vendors, tightly connected to each other and to your business. Break your case work into pieces and route each component to the vendor best suited to deliver the desired outcome at the best cost.
|Strategic Planning||Set strategic goals that matter.
Current reality: Many in-house teams are completely short-term and reactive in their planning, guided by the incoming work rather than larger strategic priorities.
Desired state: Set department mission/vision and develop strategic priorities that serve the needs of your department and the overall business. Bring a long-term, holistic perspective to your business planning while ensuring alignment to corporate imperatives.
|Technology||Innovate, automate, and solve problems with technology.
Current reality: Teams often rely on manual, time-consuming, and fragmented point solutions. They may lack an overall technology vision and are deploying costly applications that are underused and disconnected from the team’s workflow.
Desired state: Create a clear technology vision that spans all of the needs of your organization. Automate manual processes, digitize physical tasks, and improve speed and quality through the strategic deployment of technology solutions.
|Training & Development||Support your team with targeted professional training.
Current reality: Many teams do little to onboard new hires, missing an opportunity to activate and engage new team members. And once on-board, departments typically offer fragmented training opportunities, or worse, rely on their HR teams to cover training and development.
Desired state: Help your teammates be effective, compliant, and energized by designing high-quality targeted training. Design a compelling new hire experience that equips your newest employees for success. Manage CLE requirements across the team to ensure compliance and help build skills in important emerging areas.