Legal Operations 101: Function in Today’s Business

Hong Kong has long presented itself as an international business center sheltered from China’s authoritarian controls – © AFP Anthony WALLACE

A legal operations function is now expected in any modern legal department, and according to recent research, the number of organizations with a dedicated legal operations team has grown year on year over the past five years.

To better understand the evolutions with the legal services of companies, Digital journal asked for the opinion of Michel callier, Vice President, Head of Solutions at Factor.

Digital Journal: Why Are “Legal Transactions” Important?

Michel Callier: Legal operations are also an increasingly popular way for legal departments to manage information and knowledge. With globalization, rapid and continuous growth in technology, and even more integrated business activity, companies are absorbing more and more information, which requires management. Legal operations professionals help streamline information management and weather the daily storm of data entering many legal departments.

If you are not familiar with legal operations, here is a detailed explanation of legal operations and their role in today’s business environment.

DJ: What exactly is a legal operations function?

Callier: Legal operations refer to the operated environment – including work flow and efficiency – associated with the delivery of legal services. The role of legal operator or legal operations manager typically covers everything except substantive legal work, such as corporate transactions and litigation. Therefore, legal operations professionals do not necessarily need law degrees.

Legal operations assist in all aspects of the provision of legal services for which lawyers are not necessarily trained in law firms. While law firms provide excellent in-depth training, they encourage lawyers to maximize their billable hours – an antithetical approach to working as efficiently as possible. This is where legal operations come in: When lawyers transition in-house, legal operations help introduce effective ways for lawyers to deliver legal services.

Legal operations should define and drive initiatives to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the legal department. Among its main responsibilities are:

  • Manage external legal counsel directives, legal expenses and department budget (including visibility, control and reduction of legal expenses.)
  • Optimizing the performance of third-party resources (law firms, ALSPs, technology providers, etc.) for maximum value.
  • Implement, measure and analyze metrics that inform decision-making, transforming these metrics into concrete means of improvement.
  • Implement tools, such as technology and knowledge artifacts (including manuals, templates and checklists), to achieve department goals.
  • Work enterprise-wide to demonstrate the value of the legal department within the
  • Perform data analysis and reports to contribute to overall business intelligence and knowledge management.

DJ: Why should an organization invest in legal operations?

Callier: In short, legal operations help to maximize the productivity and profitability of the legal department. By shaping the department’s focus areas – and introducing metrics and KPIs that measure and compare those focus areas – legal operations help define long-term and short-term improvements. It can also put more emphasis on data-driven decisions, as legal operations convert data into information, which then becomes knowledge for the department.

With dedicated legal operations resources helping to optimize the legal service and demonstrating value to internal stakeholders, practitioners can spend more time doing what they love and do best: practicing law and serving clients. Legal operations can also strengthen relationships with suppliers and law firms to increase their transparency and value to the business.

By deploying consistent technology and processes across the department, Legal Operations help standardize and automate repetitive and administrative tasks, such as reviewing invoices, allowing staff to focus on more strategic work and help projects with higher added value. With the right vision and the investment of time, the technology introduced by legal operations can often integrate with systems across the organization to produce better business and analytical intelligence at the enterprise level.

DJ: Where to start to implement Legal Operations?

Callier: Organizations aiming to leverage legal operations should start by seeking an expert. While it can be a challenge in today’s job market, and legal operations aren’t the oldest profession, it’s always worth getting a head start with a guide who knows the ropes.

Try to remove obstacles by giving legal operations a strategic place at the table. Give them the opportunity to improve discrete legal tender points and lead cross-departmental initiatives such as contract lifecycle management and data integration projects.

With the support of the General Counsel, legal operations can have a company-wide impact and increase the strategic value of the legal department to the business.

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