The rise of Legal Operations
The evolving brief of Legal Operations.
The growing pressure on legal teams to do more with less has coincided neatly with a rise in alternative options for delivering services more efficiently and in controlled and measurable ways, says Jonathan Townend, Head of Legal Services, Konexo, a Division of Eversheds Sutherland.
The evolution of in-house legal teams to include business-led Legal Operations functions is changing the way organizations think about, prioritize and organize legal workloads.
Over recent years the emphasis has shifted from having an internal legal capability to undertake work which otherwise would have required to be outsourced, to making sure these units deliver a clear business return. This has seen legal departments transform themselves as other back-office functions have done, such as Accounts and HR. As well as processing work as efficiently as possible, in-house legal teams must optimize skilled people’s time and make a visible, value-added contribution to the business.
This in turn means that internal legal departments must be smarter about how they manage routine, volume, low-value activities – for instance, using technology or external managed services to assume some of the load and complete tasks more cost-efficiently.
Supporting Legal Ops teams
The transition to a more commercially-driven mind-set has taken place gradually over the last decade. Initially, our work was in helping organisations establish LegalOps functions, as legal departments came under new scrutiny from the business. Today, as well as continuing to do this work, we are supporting the LegalOps sub-teams in enhancing productivity, driving out inefficiency and cost, and providing insightful management information to the board to support strategic decision-making.
This trend towards making legal teams more accountable to the business spans all market sectors. Every legal department is under pressure to deliver more with less, not least as political and economic uncertainty puts a squeeze on headcounts and legal workloads soar due to general business volatility, and growing regulatory scrutiny in many markets.
Alternative Legal Services
Another driver is the broadening range of options for managing legal work, which is paving the way for businesses to source and manage this in new and more cost-efficient ways.
Organizations are no longer faced with an either/or choice between doing legal work in-house and engaging a law firm. A rise in alternative services, from interim resourcing to managed services, and smarter technology, is making it easier for organizations to rebalance their priorities and free up skilled professionals for the more demanding and complex tasks that keep them challenged and engaged, and deliver a real payback for the business.
LegalOps functions rely on good performance data, so that they can represent the legal department well to the board alongside other Business Services teams, and make the case for transformation. That could be by implementing technology, and/or by outsourcing certain activities to managed service providers with the economics of scale to complete it more cost-effectively.
A useful first task for LegalOps teams is to understand everything that the legal department does currently, and how and where time and budgets are spent. A detailed ‘activity analysis’ exercise can help uncover any inefficiencies - such as senior lawyers being busy with the wrong things, or scope for certain group legal activities to be outsourced or managed via a Shared Services facility.
Agility of Legal Ops
Agility is a further driver for change. Business conditions and legal requirements are changing at such a speed that it is a challenge for internal legal departments to keep all bases covered. So another priority for LegalOps functions is to ensure teams remain futureproof, maintaining the right blend of skills and knowledge - and sufficient capacity - to meet the business’s evolving legal needs.
Part of the plan might be to reconfigure the legal department so that it makes more strategic use of technology—whether that’s smart contract management systems that automate processes around routine legal documentation and its processing, or systems that better support job allocation, document sharing and workflow. Even just having greater visibility over legal matters and their evolving status can help pinpoint scope for efficiency improvement.
Alternative legal services by lawyers
We provide guidance and support across the whole spectrum of possibilities, and our services are especially popular with clients because the input is coming from lawyers themselves.
There aren’t many law firms that provide advisory and managed services to in-house legal departments and their LegalOps teams, and of those that do we are by far the biggest. We’re able to combine decades of experience of legal excellence with proven credentials in consulting, change management and process improvement. This results in practical solutions that are fast and easy to implement, and which deliver quick wins along the road to fuller transformation.
Between our senior partners who lead these engagements and the highly-qualified change managers and project leaders, we’re ideally equipped to guide our clients through their legal transformation journeys and help LegalOps teams fully exploit the latest options available to them.
As these opportunities continue to diversify, the potential is becoming ever more exciting and our work all the more rewarding.