What is Legal Operations?
“Legal operations” (or legal ops) describes a set of business processes, activities, and the professionals who enable legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services. Legal ops provides the strategic planning, financial management, project management, and technology expertise that enables legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice.
The CLOC Core 12
The CLOC Core 12
Legal operations offers a fundamentally new approach to how legal services are delivered. It is a multi-functional practice focused on designing, managing, and executing faster, more effectively, and with improved accountability. Legal operations experts believe that today’s corporate legal team must be focused, effective, and aligned to the larger goals of the enterprise. This is a fast-moving and evolving field that encompasses many functions, but at its core is a simple idea – that legal services should work better for everyone.
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 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.
- Determine the right data to collect and monitor
- Design and roll out metrics and dashboards
- Create data lakes and implement advanced analytics
- Spot patterns and identify hidden opportunities
- Improve both short- and long-term outcomes through data analysis
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.
- Develop, manage, and communicate your budget
- Design an accrual and forecasting process that works for your team
- Spot new opportunities for savings and efficiency
- Bring more predictability and consistency to your budgeting and financial planning
- Improve communication and compliance with your corporate Finance department
- Manage your eBilling accurately and efficiently
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.
- Design fair, effective RFPs that reflect your business needs
- Negotiate rates and pricing models that create positive incentives
- Improve transparency and accountability through structured business reviews
- Uncover new opportunities for connection and alignment
- Avoid conflicts and ethical issues by performing due diligence on prospective vendors
- On-board new vendors and firms quickly and efficiently
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.
- Create clear and organized policies, without use of legalese, to lower corporate risk and exposure
- Develop a communication strategy and/or implementation plan to ensure that all employees are aware of procedures and policies
- Manage and monitor access to all sensitive, confidential, and restricted information
- Create a modern information policy that covers physical documents, as well as digital material stored on-premises and in the cloud
- Ensure appropriate security for corporate records and information
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.
- Facilitate knowledge hubs and centers of influence across the organization
- Ensure a consistent response on topics and issues
- Design an intranet experience that makes sharing and finding best practices much easier
- Encourage team members to document and share their work in standard templates and formats
- Guard against loss of valuable knowledge caused by staff departures and role changes
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 mentoring and support. Help foster a positive and engaged culture through offsites and skills development.
- Bring a strong overall vision to your team and your HR planning
- Design a hiring process that is objective, fair, and leads to a diverse and effective team
- Encourage your best employees through promotions and special opportunities
- Support your team’s well-being by focusing on work/life balance and mental health initiatives
- Create a pipeline of talent by investing in mentoring, internship programs, and succession planning
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. .
- Lower costs by enabling legal teams to focus on highest-value tasks
- Understand current challenges and needs to identify opportunities to streamline inefficiencies
- Create better outcomes and higher quality through specialization
- Bring more speed and efficiency to overall legal output
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.
- Staff your program teams with trained professionals – not with lawyers
- Design change management efforts that make the best use of your people and resources
- Engage and communicate with stakeholders across the company
- Comply with corporate initiatives without compromising the quality or volume of ongoing work
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.
- Define and structure relationships with managed service providers and LPOs
- Disaggregate larger projects into distinct but connected elements
- Tap the best expertise and experience across both your in-house teams and your ecosystem of legal service providers
- Diminish your reliance on high-cost and ill-suited law firm support
- Innovate new solutions by using technology to connect diverse service providers
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 goals and 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.
- Connect short- and mid-term actions to long-term priorities
- Help your teams understand the bigger picture by creating a shared strategic framework
- Align to overall corporate priorities and direction
- Ensure strong alignment to business stakeholder needs
- Incorporate team and company values into your goals and execution
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.
- Create and implement a long-term technology roadmap
- Incorporate connected tools for e-billing, matter management, contact management, IP management, e-signature, and more
- Automate repetitive or time-consuming manual processes
- Determine where to build and where to buy
- Evaluate new vendors, suppliers, and solutions
- Assess emerging technology capabilities and incorporate into your long-term strategic planning
- Structure an effective partnership with your corporate IT team
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.
- Design and implement a new hire experience
- Nurture a strong sense of culture through ongoing trainings
- Track and support CLE requirements across the team
- Implement certification programs that help staff build their career and capabilities
- Build skills and knowledge in emerging high-value disciplines
What is Legal Operations?
Legal Operations provides strategic planning, financial management, project management, and technology portfolio investment expertise that allows legal professionals to focus on providing legal advice. These professionals, with backgrounds in finance, marketing, data analytics, learning and development, and more, work with leadership to identify strategic investments that build capacity for the organization. Their capabilities allow the legal organization to more effectively manage risks, monitor compliance, incorporate the right technological tools, and deliver more value to the enterprise by accelerating the business. A proactive Legal Operations team can anticipate and plan for challenges before they arrive.
The 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.
Why your next hire should be in Legal Ops
A professional role within a legal department that manages, and delivers service and processes that adapt to changing priorities and business needs within a company
Two resources are available from CLOC for you to learn more. What is Legal Operations and Why Your Next Hire Should be in Legal Ops.Learn More