Legal Operations Team Structure: Optimize Your Legal Ops for Success

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Legal operations teams have grown increasingly important to a company’s competitiveness and strategic business initiatives. Sixty-one percent of legal departments employ at least one legal operations professional today—a figure that has nearly tripled since 2015. Nearly a quarter of legal departments have at least four legal operations staff members, and 13% plan on hiring additional personnel to their legal operations team structure in the coming year.

Ultimately, the role of legal operations is to empower legal teams with optimized workflows, tools, and strategic initiatives. But the legal operations’ team structure, role hierarchy, and objectives can vary greatly based on company size. Understanding these differences—and the best practices for your budget—is a worthwhile starting point for change.

Legal operations team structure

What is the Role of Legal Operations Teams?

Legal operations team members support a corporate legal department in all areas of work from sourcing workflow tools and managing budgets to overseeing project management analytics and forming strategic alliances with business units. 

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) outlines their 12 competencies: 

    • Business intelligence
    • Financial management
    • Firm and vendor management
    • Information governance
    • Knowledge management
    • Organization optimization and health
    • Practice operations
    • Project/program management
    • Service delivery models
    • Strategic planning
    • Technology
    • Training and development

In a nutshell, legal ops teams translate these core areas of expertise into interactive guidance that drives business objectives forward, reduces spending, and enables legal departments to work more efficiently.

How is a Legal Ops Team Structured?

General Counsel sits atop the legal operations team structure as the company’s main lawyer and source of all legal advice. Next in line is the Legal Operations Director who subsequently oversees a: 

    • Legal Project Manager > Project Management Associate

    • Legal Ops Manager > Legal Ops Specialist

    • Legal Business Analyst > Business Systems Analyst

A legal operations group can vary in size and function from company to company, often based on the size and budget of the organization employing them. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Small business (less than $5 billion)

Extremely small startups typically rely on automated software solutions and outsourced alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) to assist with their legal needs. Once the business reaches the $1–5 billion mark, in-house capabilities begin to ramp up to include at least one Legal Operations Manager who supports the legal team with goal setting, budgeting, and technology innovation.

Mid-size business ($5–$20 billion)

Mid-size companies with greater resources are under tremendous pressure to enforce compliance on complex legal matters and drive workflow efficiencies that alleviate legal department bottlenecks—all while conserving precious time and money. At the mid-size level, legal operations team structure will often include a Legal Operations Manager supported by one or more Legal Project Managers and Legal Operations Specialists. This group can be slower to adopt technology unless its value has been strongly demonstrated. 

Large corporation (over $20 billion)

Large corporations generally have 5+ legal operations professionals, including:

    • Director of Legal Operations: who works directly with the General Counsel or C-suite to oversee strategic goals, resource allocation, and vendor relationships.
    • Legal Operations Manager: who deals with day-to-day projects, tasks, communications across business divisions, and workflows. 
    • Legal Operations Specialist: who improves intake tools, identifies needs across business divisions, creates compliance policies, and enforces legal playbook standards.
    • Legal Operations Analyst: who builds reporting dashboards, sets KPIs, and translates data into actionable insights to support legal team decision making.
    • Legal Operations Professional: who leads initiatives related to the design, development, and testing of products and services that can advance legal department operations.

While large companies are best equipped to establish efficient legal operations team structure, they also face the largest number of issues that are unavoidable for businesses at scale. The risks are great, but so are the opportunities to save tremendous amounts of money through operational efficiency.

Tools To Optimize Legal Operations of Any Size

Regardless of a company’s size or legal operations team structure, digital transformation is a trend that’s here to stay. According to Gartner, in-house departments’ legal technology budgets will increase three-fold to 12% by 2025.

Legal technology is a key innovator within legal operations that automates manual, time-consuming tasks—particularly those related to routine contract review and negotiation. According to a recent Bloomberg Law survey, in-house departments are planning to invest heavily in contract and document management software in the years to come. At the same time, outsourcing is shifting in-house thanks to increased business capabilities prompted by technology that overcomes legal department pain points and frees up bandwidth considerably. 

Take LexCheck, for example, whose award-winning contract review and negotiation software can reduce playbook training costs by 99%, reduce contract review time by over 80%, and expedite total time to execution by 33%. 

While it may take a legal professional days or even weeks to complete a contract review, artificial intelligence (AI) coupled with automation technology can fully redline, risk-assess, and provide contextually-guided suggestions for revision in less than five minutes. 

LexCheck compares newly uploaded contracts to a company’s corporate legal playbook, diligently applying proprietary best practices while following lawyer-provided guidance to streamline the most time-consuming portions of contract review. 

    • For small businesses: LexCheck can perform the work of an in-house contract review lawyer, greatly accelerating contract turnaround times while reducing the cost of outsourcing.
    • For mid-size businesses: Escalations to senior counsel decreases by as much as 70%, allowing these highly skilled professionals to spend less time on associate oversight and more time on high-level strategizing. 
    • For large businesses: LexCheck transforms static workflows into more engaging, meaningful duties that can help enterprises retain top talent. By implementing tech at scale, the dollars saved go straight to bottom-line revenue growth—enabling the legal team to bring increased value to the company.  

A few years ago, one in three law departments said they “do not have the technology they need to do their job[s].” Given that 90% of companies review and handle contracts in-house, it’s up to the legal operations team to change that. Similarly, Ernst & Young’s survey of General Counsel found that 59% of professionals view the greater use of technology as an opportunity for cost savings, followed closely by 38% who are planning greater insourcing and 33% who will be optimizing in-house processes.  

Accordingly, it’s within the legal ops team’s hands to find ways to automate repetitive tasks, connect disparate contract lifecycle management tools, establish a tech strategy that modernizes operations, assess the current tech stack and identify areas of opportunity, and evaluate tech platforms or service providers.

LexCheck helps companies fill gaps in their legal operations team structure and create room for increased capacity. Contact us at sales@lexcheck.com to learn more about us, or request a demo to see our tech in action.

gary-sanghaGary Sangha | Founder & CEO

Gary Sangha is the Founder and CEO LexCheck. He's a serial entrepreneur and an academic. Gary previously founded Intelligize, a legal technology company that was acquired by LexisNexis. He's affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University and started his career as an attorney at Shearman & Sterling and White & Case.