Legal Ops Series: Getting Started on your “Legal Ops Project”

Legal Ops Series: Getting Started on your “Legal Ops Project”

In our latest series we focus on Legal Operations in which Neil Smith, Legal Operations specialist discusses three topical and important aspects of Legal Operations: (1) getting started (2) demonstrating the value of Legal Ops to the wider business and (3) pitfalls to avoid.  

What is Legal Ops?

Whilst becoming rapidly more established as an area of practice, I still think it instructive to remind ourselves what Legal Ops actually is.

The internet suggests that Legal Operations means running in-house legal like a business, focusing on competencies like financial management, analytics and service design to make legal efficient, effective and fit for the modern business.  I really like this definition (and not just because it was the first hit). 

It perfectly summarises that Legal Operations is all about ensuring that the legal team meets the needs of the business and that everything the team does is done with the broader mission of the business in mind.


What’s wrong?

Without being overly simplistic/pejorative, this is a good starting point for any successful Legal Operations project.  Perhaps this could be better worded as “What could be better?” or better still “What could be done better?”.  It is no more complicated than that. 

The answer to this question can be surfaced by asking the following questions (not exhaustive):

  • What is driving the work of the legal team?
  • Who/which departments is that work coming from?
  • What problems do we already know about?

What do the most senior levels of the business want to see by way of data, MI (management information) or other output from the legal team?

What do we want to fix/improve first?

The answers to the above questions will invariably result in a long shopping list of items to tackle. Practical steps you can take include:

  • A cross section of legal work will help identify the optimal expertise mix within the team and ensure it is armed with the best tools to deliver that work
  • Source of work analysis helps facilitate conversations around most impactful/efficient delivery as well as assisting with budget discussions (life cycle mapping is a must here)
  • Identify common “problem” areas to tackle such as
    • Faster/more intelligent production and management of contracts (doc auto solutions and repositories allied with robust Contract Management Policies)
    • Better management of risk/workflow (Traffic Light Policies re what must, might and need not be reviewed by legal)
    • Managing of external legal spend (panel reviews and External Legal Instruction processes and policies) and,
    • Design/development of a “Legal Intranet” (legal’s shop window to the business)
  • Via triage you can ensure legal work is being directed to the most appropriate person in the team, completed via an automated solution or sent to external counsel (adoption of Legal Instruction Forms or policies will often help here)
  • MI/data/metrics: consider benchmarking against other in-house teams, matter analysis and time recording (sometimes a difficult sell but the insights are invaluable)


The Plan

A clear ‘bought into’ Plan is an obvious must – give lots of thought to the appropriate stakeholders including:

  • The GC
  • The legal team - as they need to be bought in (more on this in upcoming blog posts)
  • The business - including considering the needs of the business’ clients

I have found it is useful to batch the tasks in the plan (which may be numerous) into sensible workstreams e.g. regulatory/compliance/governance, service delivery, team and people, continuous improvement/tech.  This helps with conceptual understanding, expressing the aims and from a reporting/MI/scorecard perspective (again more on this in upcoming posts).


In conclusion

Finally, there is no such thing as one size fits all.  Whilst the basic requirements of any plan, and the need to be clear on how you measure success, will be similar it is important to ensure the plan fixes the identified problems and not to make the problems fix your plan!

Additional recommended reading

Legal services outsourcing strategy overview - a suite of tools and guidance to assist you formulate a legal service outsourcing strategy

Risk scorecard – practical resource to score and benchmark the component parts of risk, i.e. probability and impact and quantify the risk using the formula risk = probability x probability

Lexis Create - Create the perfect legal document every time. Built into Microsoft Office, Lexis Create pulls together all the legal tools, calculators and content you need to create brilliant legal documents the first time. 



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