Before we begin, if you are just getting started on legal ops, we recommend you check out our intro to legal ops piece here. It is a quick guide that covers all the basics. In this post, we wanted to provide in-depth understanding of what are the benefits of having a legal ops team.
And without further ado, here it goes.
An efficient Legal Ops unit helps free up in-house counsel to do what they do best: practice law. Legal operations allow the legal department to perform more legal work in-house by enabling lawyers to focus on practicing at the top of their law license.
By creating a team that can support the bank's entire legal infrastructure, to include everything from management of outside counsel, legal vendor management, analytics, technology, to management of its support staff and the legal offices around the world, the legal operations function would allow lawyers "to focus on continuing delivering legal advice to their clients.
Less time spent on the firm selection or billing equals more attorney time spent focusing on legal strategy and desirable outcomes for this business. Especially having a non-lawyer in the legal ops role frees up lawyers to focus on practicing law. The result is sustained ongoing communications and earlier legal involvement.
Legal operations units equip their law departments to manage resources across the entire range of internal and external components. It works best for corporations that rely on dispersed legal support across different geographical areas. Companies such as Telstra, HPE with the help of legal operations have successfully centralised the delivery of legal services globally.
For example, at HPE, the operations team inspects operational review decks assembled by 12 Deputy GC teams to assess group performance. These reports are instrumental in developing dashboards and metrics that facilitate prioritization and an ability to see across the entire organization.
The legal ops team at Telstra enables centralization of the talent management role, allowing legal to manage and train across the entire department globally simultaneously.
Most legal operations units have a strong tech-team that support data gathering and put in place critical performance indicators to drive efficiency and quality. From e-billing platforms that help build budgets and manage outside counsel costs, to document management, contracting and matter management tools, legal operations units like those at HPE and Yazaki are at the forefront of legal technology ownership.
Vesting ownership of legal technologies in legal operations facilitates adoption and maximises utilisation of the tools. Legal ops can leverage technology to set up client self-help systems like contract assembly systems and lifecycle management tools. These technologies limit lawyer involvement in low-risk matters and reduce time spent on search, fact-gathering, document assembly and review. It frees up the time of the lawyer for other pressing issues.
Metrics can give law departments measurable targets to drive improvement in cost and efficiency while maintaining, or enhancing, quality. Legal operations functions use metrics and analytics to understand and manage costs and build employee engagement. Metrics also enable assessment of outside counsel relationships, performance and spend, as well as tracking of fee trends and employee feedback about the workplace. And although implementing complex systems can be difficult, spending time to set up systems that collect smarter data to help conduct more detailed reporting is one of the most essential roles of legal operations. Only by understanding the data being collected can departments run dashboards that serve their purpose.
To provide the required direction, continuity, and coordination of matters, legal departments are adopting project management as a crucial element of the legal ops team. Any competent legal ops team will possess project management expertise. Project managers within these legal departments are directly assisting in matter management, working with corporate IT, maintaining e-billing systems and procurement teams. The best project managers can render large or complex vision into subtasks, and communicate the vision to leaders.
By implementing a contract management system and improved billing management software, attorney time can be freed for smarter allocation of lawyers focused around the higher-value practice. In companies like Campbell Soup's Legal Operations office vests greater responsibility for budget management with senior legal leadership team members, facilitated through digital tools.
Through efficient vendor management initiatives and disciplined oversight of budget and spending, global law firms are meeting targets and continuously scaling to drive value. Establishments such as Bank of America have seen their legal operations team achieve considerable savings through the convergence of its litigation firms and initiatives to leverage data and improve information security. These initiatives continue to yield savings through preferred rates and alternative fee arrangements – and by freeing up attorneys from outside counsel management to focus more on legal strategy and achieving desirable outcomes.