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.
Legal Operations exists to remove the barriers that prevent in-house lawyers from getting things done. Whether it is through selecting technology or creating standard processes so colleagues don’t need to reinvent the wheel, Legal Operations can be thought of as “the right-hand person” empowering the GC to spend more time on higher value activities. To spearhead this “productivity revolution”, many legal departments now employ dedicated legal operations staff to execute on how the GC wants to structure and operate the legal department.
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.
Regardless of how the function is executed, Legal Operations professionals may have a legal background, but skills like project management, data analysis and communication, and expertise in operational, financial and technology management are even more important. Their understanding of the core business coupled with their ability to translate the needs of the business into how the legal department works, helps Legal deliver on their promise to protect and grow the business.
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (“CLOC”) has developed a framework for understanding the 12 core competencies that every legal department must manage to “have a disciplined, efficient, and effective legal function.”