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Home   >Collaboration 101

What is Legal Ops?

January 15, 2024
What is Legal Ops?
Legal ops, or legal operations, manages the business and administrative aspects of an in-house legal team, focusing on enhancing efficiency, effectiveness, and alignment with the organization.

In essence, it’s the support team and tools for in-house legal, enabling them to focus less on logistics and more on providing legal expertise.  Legal operations have grown into a necessary component of many legal departments and law practices, evidenced by the fact that 58% of departments had at least one legal operations professional in 2023 (2023 ACC CLO Survey). This trend underscores the increasing focus of Chief Legal Officers (CLOs) on enhancing their legal team's effectiveness and reducing overall costs. According to the same survey, over 70% of CLOs have prioritized investments in legal operations, alongside right-sourcing legal services (45%) and cost minimization (43%).  

Why Do Organizations Invest in Legal Ops Departments?

The primary goal of a Legal Ops department is clear: it empowers in-house attorneys to focus on legal work (e.g., legal matters) instead of administrative tasks.

Legal Ops teams bring specialized expertise in areas like vendor management and technology. For example, they might streamline vendor selection processes or integrate advanced workflow management systems. They introduce best practices and technologies that enhance data-driven decision-making, improve cross-functional alignment, and implement new technologies for collaboration and compliance. This not only boosts the legal team's productivity but also closely aligns their work with the broader business objectives of the organization.  In fact, the 2023 Thompson Reuters Legal Department Operations Report found that 72% of legal ops respondents were prioritizing the use of technology to simplify workflows and manual processes. And, when it comes to the kinds of technology being pursued, the 2023 Bloomberg Law Legal Ops and Tech Survey found traditional contract management and collaboration tools were in the top ten technology priorities along with tools and technologies to address data protection and security.  

What Do Legal Ops Departments Do?

Legal Ops departments are pivotal in transforming legal teams, extending well beyond just process management and technology. Their scope encompasses a variety of critical functions as outlined by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) in the CLOC 12 framework

  • Analytics and Business Intelligence: Harnessing data for informed decision-making.
  • Financial Management: Overseeing budget, costs, and financial planning.
  • Vendor Management: Managing relationships and negotiations with external service providers.
  • Information Governance: Ensuring proper handling of documents and records.
  • Knowledge Management: Facilitating information sharing and learning.
  • Organization Optimization and Health: Enhancing team structure and wellness.
  • Practice/Department Operations: Streamlining daily operational tasks.
  • Project/Program Management: Overseeing specific legal projects or programs.
  • Service Delivery Models: Developing efficient ways to deliver legal services.
  • Strategic Planning: Aligning legal operations with broader business goals.
  • Technology: Implementing and managing legal tech solutions.
  • Training and Development: Fostering team growth and skills enhancement.

By addressing these areas, Legal Ops teams contribute significantly to the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal department.  

Enhancing Legal Ops by Improving External Collaboration

TakeTurns is external collaboration software that enables you to share, request, and collborate on documents and files with any external stakeholder.

Most legal ops teams are focused on improving internal efficiencies and the alignment of the legal department with internal stakeholders like sales, finance, procurement, and operations. The adoption of contract lifecycle management and workflow optimization technologies underscores this internal focus.  After all, these are the kinds of technologies the legal team needs if they wish to improve cross-functional alignment. 

However, this focus on internal processes can overshadow the substantial productivity benefits found by improving external collaboration. Effective contract management not only requires internal alignment between legal and sales but also active engagement with external stakeholders, such as customers.  This is particularly true during the negotiation and review stages of the contract lifecycle, where the role of external stakeholders is pivotal.  

Adopting external collaboration tools can overcome common barriers like miscommunication and delayed responses, leading to more streamlined negotiation, enhanced external relationships, and quicker contract/legal matter finalizations. While legal teams have invested in high-tech solutions to optimize internal processes, external collaborations still often rely on email, with its well-known limitations in productivity, version control, and security.

Consider an in-house legal team adopting an external collaboration tool for contract negotiations, overcoming challenges such as the need for training and adapting to new workflows. This approach overcomes email’s shortcomings by adding structured communication, efficient document handling with version control, document collection, and enhanced security. These tools also seamlessly interoperate with existing contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems, reinforcing the department's investments in technology.

Legal Ops teams are encouraged to assess and integrate external collaboration tools alongside their internal system improvements. This comprehensive approach ensures that productivity and efficiency improvements are more holistic, creating value for and building stronger relationships with those inside and outside the organization. 


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