What is Legal Operations and How Can It Be Streamlined?

icon-contract

Legal operations (or legal ops) is a somewhat new field, but its importance is already widely recognized. In the 2022 ACC Chief Legal Officers Survey, 70% of respondents listed legal ops as their top strategic priority. This is going to be even more important as companies struggle to cut costs and workloads increase amid record-breaking inflation. Companies shouldn’t just  focus on what legal operations is, but also on how it can give them a competitive advantage.

Attrition rates are of particular concern right now. While compensation rates are up, so is turnover with nearly one-quarter of lawyers leaving their firms. Despite bonuses and high pay packages, problems remain. That’s because legal professionals are far more concerned about work-life balance and flexibility. Effective legal operations strategies can provide both and allow companies to compete in a tight labor market.

What is Legal Operations?

Legal operations refers to the business processes, activities, technology, and support designed to enhance a company’s legal services. Legal ops leaders oversee strategic planning and provide the time, people, and resources needed to complete projects efficiently. They are often specialists in the latest technology and process controls that free up lawyers to build client relationships and provide expert legal advice. 

Common legal operations roles include:

    • Legal operations manager: a generalist role that support teams and projects

    • Legal operations specialist: in charge of daily process improvements

    • Legal operations analyst: monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics

    • Legal operations technologist: identifies opportunities to implement new tools

    • Director of legal operations: tackles leadership initiatives for legal ops teams

Typically, a company’s in-house legal team consists of one or more senior counsel reporting to a Chief Legal Officer, General Counsel, or VP of Legal who is supported by a Legal Operations Director, specialist, or team.

How is Legal Operations Different From a Company’s Legal Admin Team?

People occasionally confuse a legal operations team with a legal admin team. In reality, the legal operations team supports the in-house lawyers. 

Not every business has a branch that focuses exclusively on process efficiency, but the average number of full-time legal ops professionals in medium-sized companies is one for every 23 legal team members

Legal administrators review documents, negotiate contracts, and advise clients, while legal ops teams, on the other hand, focus on controlling costs, improving workflows, and adopting advanced technology.

How Does a Legal Operations Manager Differ From General Counsel?

“The legal ops role is one that can be [considered] the right hand to the GC,” explains Mary Shen O’Carroll, head of legal operations at Google. 

A legal operations professional is the person who manages all functions taking place in the legal department that are separate from the delivery of legal advice. 

“It’s about making sure that you’re getting value for the dollar that you’re spending, both inside systems and human resources, but also externally,” she adds. 

Whether they’re enacting diverse hiring practices, vetting prospective vendors, or streamlining contract review, a legal ops manager helps general counsel succeed in their day-to-day duties.

What Do Legal Operations Duties Include?

According to the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), legal operations teams cover 12 core areas:

    • 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, these professionals often have backgrounds in business development, data analysis, finance, and marketing and work with leadership to identify strategic investments that build organizational capacity. They help companies manage risks, monitor compliance, incorporate technology, boost productivity, and accelerate growth. Proactive legal ops teams can spot legal challenges well before they arise.

Challenges in Legal Operations Today

Over time, advances in legal technology and changes in law practice have been implemented to combat a myriad of industry-specific challenges, namely:

    • Slow legal turnaround time. Without contract management and automation technology, routine agreement intake, review, and approval processes can hold up business—affecting many different departments and negatively impact revenue. 
    • Manual process frustrations and costs. Slow, manual processes are not only frustrating for employees to deal with, but also expensive—particularly when the work falls onto senior legal counsel’s shoulders.
    • Remote work silos. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lack of technology to facilitate work both in and out of the office resulted in some companies lagging behind in meeting their contractual obligations.
    • Stagnant budgets and burnout. Increased workloads without process improvements can lead to understaffing headaches such as wasted time, burnout, and the high costs of turnover.  

For legal ops teams, the question remains: “How can we do more with less?” The answer lies with technology.

Automation Technology: The Key to Streamlining Legal Operations

Legal operations teams are tasked with ushering in efficiencies that free up lawyers to focus on more value-adding work. Over the last five years, technology has become more effective at doing exactly that, particularly in the area of contract review.

As contract review and negotiation are among the most tedious and time-consuming tasks for legal teams, streamlining this area through automation is crucial. LexCheck is the automated pre-execution contract review and negotiation solution that decreases a contract’s review cycle time by over 80%, and playbook compliance training costs by 99%. It’s the perfect companion for any legal ops team, streamlining contracting workflows and paving the way for innovation in the legal profession.

Don’t let repetitive contract review tasks slow down your business. With LexCheck, legal ops teams and in-house corporate legal departments can do more with less. Contact us at sales@lexcheck.com to learn more, or request a demo to experience the technology.

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.