Legal Operations: Transform How Your Legal Department Delivers Value

Ensure legal teams focus on value-added activities to drive business outcomes.

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The future of legal operations

In today’s disruptive environment, resilience is a performance differentiator. General counsel (GC) must evolve to act as the organization’s disruption risk guide to ensure legal is an active driver of the kind of organizational resilience needed today and in the future.

Download this action plan to:

  1. Surface key issues early and prioritize work by decision-making impact.
  2. Balance scale and responsiveness and create a task-based network.
  3. Experiment to deliver business outcomes and foster dynamic skill building.

The 4 components of legal operations

To modernize the focus and operations of your legal department, reimagine four key components of legal operations: strategy, talent, process and contracts.

Ensure your department aligns to and helps the business achieve its objectives

Rapidly changing business demands, regulations and the resource-constrained environment mean legal leaders must adopt more resilient, adaptive strategic planning processes. Successful strategic plans not only adapt to the operating environment, they also support larger corporate initiatives. Leading legal leaders must ensure their department strategy, structure and metrics align to and help the business achieve its corporate objectives, even when strategy pivots to take advantage of new opportunities afforded by disruption or navigate unforeseen challenges.

While simple in theory, many planning exercises fail to directly support business goals, offer a clear list of next-step activities or offer metrics to track progress and measure success. According to a recent Gartner survey, only 18% of leaders have confidence in their ability to address static strategic planning and resource allocation processes.

Key resources:

Develop and engage talent to drive business value

With the labor market extremely tight and lawyer burnout high, legal departments must revisit their approach to talent and develop a comprehensive legal talent strategy that drives lawyer engagement and ensures they have the legal expertise and business acumen to support shifting business demands. It must include a clear strategy for engaging, attracting and retaining top legal talent.

Fifty-four percent of lawyers report they are exhausted. High exhaustion hurts lawyers, harms the department and reduces quality of work. And legal leaders’ approach to solving this problem — reallocating work and providing opportunities for mental breaks — is not working. Achieving high engagement is the best way to reduce exhaustion. Highly engaged lawyers are more likely to:

  • Explore novel ways to help business partners meet objectives
  • Show high discretionary effort
  • Explore new ways to improve department processes

And high engagement is closer than you think. Sixty-nine percent of lawyers could be highly engaged if legal makes even incremental improvements. The most effective driver of engagement for lawyers is providing personally fulfilling work. 

While in-house lawyers have high levels of exhaustion and are rethinking their work preferences, legal also faces growing challenges with attracting and retaining talent. 

A close partnership with HR is critical to define hiring needs, expand the legal talent pool and onboard new hires to find and support best-fit candidates for legal job openings. A close partnership with HR also helps to develop competency models, track employee engagement and develop new training opportunities to ensure employees are engaged and performing optimally.

Key resources:

Improve legal intake, triage and workload allocation

Legal must implement guidelines around what work the department does, who does it and how it gets done. This increases efficiency, overall legal speed and client satisfaction. It also frees up legal resources, mitigates lawyer burnout and reduces the cost of legal work.

To set these guidelines, workload transparency is key and enables legal leaders to identify critical opportunities to reallocate, automate and offload work. While many legal departments already have an intake and triage process for external work (i.e., requests that go to outside counsel), most remain reluctant to invest in intake and triage for internal work (i.e., requests that go to in-house legal professionals) because of skepticism about the benefits.

Legal leaders must break down flawed assumptions about the costs and benefits of triaging internal work if they want to make genuine progress toward a better work strategy and better business outcomes. To start off, ask legal staff about their work and develop tactics for collecting workload information to then interpret workload analysis results.

Streamline contracts management to mitigate risk and enable business growth

Legal departments typically spend the most time and money on managing contracts but struggle to implement a comprehensive contracts process and metrics strategy across the contract life cycle. Legal leaders are not using metrics to actively monitor and manage their contracting function. The result? Slow contract turnaround times, mismatched resource utilization, increased risk, revenue leakage and strained customer relationships.

Legal leaders must streamline contract activities, rationalize handoffs and identify critical opportunities to leverage technology. Plus, a contracts strategy helps to use metrics to identify performance improvement opportunities. Contract management is inherently complex, involving many steps, diverse stakeholders and disparate data sources. Without a defined metrics strategy, legal leaders struggle to identify actual versus perceived process failures, size potential impact, prioritize process improvement efforts and measure solution effectiveness.

Efforts to report “anything and everything” will provide only limited insight into legal’s performance and impact. Capturing and sharing a high volume of directionless data will paralyze teams, instead of focusing them on distinct actions that move the business forward.

Legal leaders must represent and develop what the business needs in terms of metrics to derive value from contracting data and drive strategic outcomes.

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Legal operations enables legal departments to grow the business while managing the cost constraints, increasing demand and complexity of legal services.

Legal operations identifies and prioritizes the actions required to ensure legal teams focus on value-added activities to drive business outcomes.

Legal operations can create critical gains within the organization at large. Addressing workload, knowledge and talent management allows legal to gain efficiency and enhance legal department capabilities. This strategy creates significant value for the organization: Legal departments that provide fast, quality, strategic support enable organizations to move quickly to capture new and changing growth opportunities.

Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.