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Hiring for legal ops for your business is no longer a choice. The role in itself has gained a lot of focus in recent years. And why not? Studies have shown how critical the function is to improve departmental efficiencies.

It thus brings us to the question, “when should I hire for legal ops?” If you are new to hiring, this article offers everything you need to know. We will look at the role and its responsibilities, skills to look for, and tips to make the most of your new hire.

What is Legal Ops All About?

The legal operations function specializes in driving innovation and change. Legal Ops professionals build processes that drive higher efficiencies and empower the in-house legal team to focus more on their core duties.

These teams interlink the legal department to the rest of the organization and work closely with the GCs on the legal department’s long-term strategy. Legal operations remain actively involved in financial planning, vendor management, data analytics, and adopting legal technology across the organization.

Roles and Responsibilities of Legal Ops Professionals

The legal operations team works across practice areas within Legal and Corporate Compliance. It also supports related functions for efficient delivery of legal services and compliances to business partners. Here are some critical responsibilities.

  • Drive metrics and analyze trends on data points aligned to GC’s key objectives and strategic plan, as well as department effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Provide paralegal and administrative support by collaborating with cross-functional teams, including sales, service, IT, regulatory, finance, and business units.
  • Assist in identifying and implementing legal and compliance requirements by streamlining new or existing practices as well as owning the design, rollout, and training systems.
  • Manage contract intake, processes, and workflows (tracking contract approvals, contract start and expiration dates, renewals, and termination options).
  • Develop performance reports for legal and business management such as KPIs, SLAs, and progress status, driving visibility and swift action.
  • Manage projections, budgets, and accrual processes.
  • Work in tandem with legal and compliance departments, law firms, and finance teams.
  • Help enforce policies and processes and manage outside counsel usage.

KPIs/OKRs for a Legal Ops Role

Since legal operations roles work extensively across functions, the KPIs are multifaceted. Here are a few KPIs/OKRs that you should track before hiring for a legal ops role.  

  • Analyze Total Departmental Spend - If the total spend of the legal department is extremely high, you might want to hire a legal ops professional.  
  • Calculate the percentage of cases handled internally, without outside counsel services - If this metric is low, go on to hire a legal ops role as you would like your legal resources to be utilized completely. 
  • Track the amount of time spent processing invoices accurately - If the time taken to process invoices accurately is high, you need a legal ops professional to identify the reason and administer it further.
  • Time spent on legal vs. administrative tasks - This might be the key metric for you. If your legal team is spending more time on administrative tasks rather than focusing on strategic legal matters, you should hire a legal ops professional rightaway.  
KPIs/OKRs to check for a legal ops role

Which Candidates Could Potentially Be Good Legal Ops Professionals?

The focus of hiring for this role should veer towards candidates having business management experience. A law degree is not necessarily a requirement, unlike other positions within the legal function. Here are some essential qualities you should look forward to in your potential legal ops professional.

  • Strategic Orientation

Your legal ops professional should strategically support the initiatives of the GC. They should create action plans that optimize processes, improve technology adoption, and promote collaboration.

  • Business Mindedness

Your legal ops professional should be a street-smart player who can get things done. Their role will impact the efficiency and productivity of the legal department to a large extent.

  • Love for Data

Data-driven strategies and decision-making hold great chances of success. The legal ops professional should understand numbers and the hidden insights behind them. Advanced knowledge of data analysis will also help them collaborate better with finance teams.

  • Building Relationships

The legal ops professionals should have the necessary skills to understand people and build meaningful relationships. Much of their work will focus on cross-departmental collaboration, making it vital to be a team player.

  • Networking Effectively

Besides building meaningful relationships, it is vital for legal ops to network for the organization’s gains. It will help the company leverage that and achieve its goals.

  • Love for Technology

Technology-driven legal ops professionals will have all the modern-day know-how to succeed in their role. As they embrace innovation and look to drive change, nothing around them remains stagnant. Their love for technology will ultimately help the department stay ahead of the learning curve.

  • Expert Interpreter

The legal world can be complex, often leaving things open to interpretation. Legal processes and activities can also be overwhelming for anyone. Look for people who are excellent in written and oral communication. It will help them reduce related barriers and not leave any scope for confusion.

  • Decent Negotiator

As legal ops professionals will have to deal with a range of vendors, negotiating well to save each penny will go a long way. Effective negotiation is a skill that can strongly impact the bottom line. A professional skilled at negotiations will lead to cost-cutting without compromising other aspects.

Considerations to Keep in Mind When Hiring For a Legal Ops Role

  1. Identify the pain points you are trying to solve by hiring a legal ops professional - Your legal team members may already be covering a lot of related tasks but in one-off cases. You can consolidate those minor tasks into a full-fledged function when you hire for this role. 
  2. Will having a legal ops professional help GCs focus on strategic decision making? - Legal ops will help you ease the bandwidth of other members who can concentrate on their core responsibilities. Having a dedicated resource will bring in the expertise needed for better results. The expert will also get to streamline workflows and improve departmental efficiencies.
  3. Look for long-term goals - Do this especially when you have to give justification based on employee headcount. Even if you have a team of few members, understand what impact the legal function will have on the organization in the long run.
  4. Encapsulate team goals with organizational goals - Pertinent data will also help you justify bringing in an additional member. 

How to Hire a Legal Ops Professional the Right Way?

It is beneficial to include the desired core competencies in the job description. These include managing the department’s finances, improving workflows, tracking KPIs, and knowledge management.

It is also crucial to make your potential legal ops professional understand the company goals and how they fit into the scheme of things. A brief about the dynamics of legal and other departments will also help to set the right expectations.

What to Expect From Your Legal Ops Professional?

The legal ops professional may take time to adjust based on the complexities of your business. Their first two to four weeks should focus on learning and creating a foundation. The next four weeks should focus on creating priorities, streamlining operations, and finishing pending tasks.

Towards the end of the first quarter, your legal ops professional should develop an advanced understanding of your business. They should also create strategic roadmaps that drive your monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals.

Hiring Your Next Legal Ops Professional

Hiring a legal ops professional could be a stepping stone for your legal team. If you are expanding operations, it will help you streamline several things. In case you are building a new team, you can put things straight from day one.

Keep the considerations and other tips listed here in mind before hiring for legal ops. It will help you eliminate guesswork and avoid recruiting mistakes.

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