Internal legal departments are being redefined due to a number of internal and external factors. Whether it is due to mergers and acquisitions, a need to expand resources across multiple business locations and geographies, or other influences, legal departments are being called upon to generate more value than ever before and to leverage it. do more efficiently.
“The idea that an in-house legal team should function as an in-house law firm is giving way to a vision of the legal department which is a business function, a function that generates economic value for the company. Rigid silos are replaced by more fluid structures. In-house lawyers become business partners, integrated and able to work in all units and specializations, ”write the authors of a Deloitte report exploring the evolution of legal services.
At the heart of this development is the growing strength of the Legal Operations team, a business unit that typically sits within the legal function and focuses on growing effectiveness, efficiency and ultimately account, the business value of the legal department as a whole. From managing vendor agreements with external legal providers to integrating technologies that can improve the way lawyers do their jobs, legal operations teams are involved in the business aspects of managing the department.
Typically, legal operations staff bring in-depth knowledge of the needs of corporate lawyers, combined with organizational expertise. While such a foundation is vital, the structure of legal operations is also important to ensure that none of the key areas of opportunity for driving efficiency are overlooked.
Legal operations teams typically consist of many types of analysts, managers, and support staff. The group leader usually reports to the general counsel of the company. The number of employees will likely determine organizational hierarchy levels within legal operations.
That said, building formal legal operations teams is still an early initiative for many companies, with more than 85% of these units made up of five members or less, according to an annual State of Operations report. legal. This means that to deliver maximum value, the same person must focus on several of the core competencies identified by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium as being at the heart of legal operations.
To streamline and deliver maximum process improvements and efficiency, consider dividing these high-level skills across the following three multidisciplinary focus areas:
Across the business, technology offers one of the most powerful opportunities available today to improve process costs and efficiency, improve work accuracy, and advance other valuable improvements. Whether it’s automation, machine learning, collaboration platforms, or other innovations, advancements in technology are enabling businesses – and legal departments – to work harder and better than ever.
Within the legal function, some of the main opportunities for improvement can be found in the following technologies:
● Automation to speed up the tedious manual work of integrating contracts, reviewing, reporting, speeding up finance approval processes, and more.
● Contract analysis to reveal information, best practices and contract trends
● Artificial intelligence to enable automation, identify contractual risks and other benefits
But the integration and management of new technologies is not always a simple and ad hoc task. This requires an overview of legal services needs, the challenges and benefits of existing workflows, processes and tools, as well as an in-depth knowledge of compliance requirements and other limitations.
Within legal operations teams, the person responsible for technology combines these attributes, working with internal partners within legal operations and the legal department, and interdisciplinary partners within their organization such as IT to identify , integrate and manage technologies that improve the delivery of legal services. This can include developing a business case for new technologies, working closely with those charged with data governance, and creating onboarding and training programs as new solutions are implemented.
2. Service provision
The siled legal department is a thing of the past, according to the Deloitte report. To make the most of the value of in-house advice, legal departments are evolving to play a more central role in business operations. This requires that legal operations teams focus on cross-functional alignment, working with other business units to develop and achieve higher-level strategic goals. This aspect of legal operations also includes the development and implementation of roadmaps to optimize the organizational structure and capabilities of the legal department to best provide services that meet the needs of the business as a whole.
Legal operations are not just about shaping the legal department of the future. As the unit responsible for all non-legal aspects of the department, Legal Operations supports the continued functioning of the team. This includes all aspects of regular operations, such as finance related tasks such as budgeting and approval of invoices; supplier management, including business reviews and negotiation of fee agreements with outside legal advisers; and monitoring and reporting on the performance of the legal team against targets.
The multidisciplinary nature of legal operations and the dual need to support both the current state of the team and to sustain the unit means that there is likely to be frequent overlap within these compartments. But by considering these three main needs in structuring legal operations, teams can ensure that they are focusing on the right elements for maximum efficiency, both now and as the service evolves. .
For a more comprehensive overview of the evolution of legal services – and how technology can help streamline common problems – download Legal Department Operations: A Guide for General Counsel. – Some of this content has already been published on the ContractWorks blog.