What is Legal Operations?

October 20, 2023

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What is legal operations?

Legal ops, short for legal operations, refers to the business operations and management processes within a legal department or law firm. It involves the use of technology, data analysis, project management and other tools to improve the productivity and overall performance of legal teams. Legal ops professionals work to streamline legal processes, manage budgets, implement new technologies and provide strategic guidance to legal teams to help them achieve their goals.

History of legal operations

The history of legal ops can be traced back to the early 2000s, when some large corporations started to recognize that their in-house legal departments were not operating as efficiently as they could be. In response, they began to implement business management strategies, processes, and technologies commonly used in other departments, such as finance and HR, to improve the effectiveness of their legal operations.

Around 2007, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) was founded as a professional association to support the growing number of legal ops professionals. The association has since grown to include thousands of members from around the world and continues to serve as the key community for all legal operations professionals.

Over the past decade, legal ops has become increasingly important in law firms and corporate legal departments. Today, legal ops professionals work to optimize legal processes and provide strategic guidance to legal teams, helping them to become more efficient, productive and successful.

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The key role legal operation management plays

Legal operations management plays a key role in an organization by improving the efficiency of its legal operations. It involves the use of business management strategies, processes and technologies to optimize legal processes, manage budgets, and provide strategic guidance to legal teams.

Some key roles of legal operations management include:

  1. Strategic planning: Legal ops professionals work with legal teams to develop strategic plans that align with the organization's overall goals and objectives.
  1. Budget management: Legal ops professionals manage the legal department's budget, ensuring that it is used effectively and efficiently.
  1. Technology implementation: Legal ops professionals help to identify and implement new legal technologies to streamline legal processes, improve productivity, and reduce costs.
  1. Data analysis: Legal ops professionals use data analysis to identify trends and opportunities for improvement in legal operations.
  1. Project management: Legal ops professionals use project management methodologies to ensure that legal projects are completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of all stakeholders.

Legal operations strategy

Legal operations strategy is a plan of action designed to optimize legal operations in an organization. It involves the use of business management principles, processes and technologies to ensure that the function runs smoothly while adding value to the overall organization it serves.  

The strategy focuses on the identification of key areas for improvement and the development of a plan to address them. This can include streamlining legal processes to increase efficiency, implementing new technologies to automate tasks and improve data management and measuring performance using data analysis and metrics.

Jennifer McCarron, Director of Legal Ops & Technology at Netflix, also alludes to the fact that legal ops professionals must organize data in a way that is easy for business users and other key company stakeholders to understand, as it is key to supporting the legal team. A critical aspect in the strategy of legal ops is to extract and emphasize data that brings value back to the legal team to secure additional resources that lead the function to success.

Overview of modern legal departments

Modern legal departments are evolving to meet the changing needs of organizations. They are moving away from traditional models of legal practice and adopting a more business-like approach to legal operations. Today's legal departments are becoming more integrated with the organization's overall strategy, working closely with other departments to ensure that legal issues are considered in all key decisions.

Modern legal departments are also leveraging technology to improve legal operations. They are adopting legal automation tools, document management systems and data analytics to streamline their day-to-day processes within the legal function. Additionally, legal departments are using metrics and data analysis to measure performance and identify areas for improvement.

Overall, modern legal departments are focused on delivering value to the organization by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing effectiveness. They are adopting a more business-like approach to legal operations, leveraging technology, metrics and data analysis to optimize their performance, positioning them as more of a strategic business partner than a cost center. They are also investing in the development of their legal teams and building strong relationships with stakeholders to ensure that legal issues are addressed in a strategic and collaborative manner.

Legal operations technology stack

Here are some commonly used legal technology options to support legal operations professionals in managing their daily tasks and improving the performance of their legal departments:

  • Legal workflow automation software: Enables automation of routine tasks and processes, freeing up time for higher-level strategic work.
  • Legal Intake software: Enables the business to resolve legal requests through a digital legal front door where they can access services from the legal team. It enhances the way that the business interfaces with legal through a blend of self-service and connecting with lawyers, delegating legal requests from business users to the appropriate lawyer to resolve them.
  • Legal self-service software: Enables business users within an organization through a digital, serve-way to access legal advice tailored to their specific needs.
  • Legal matter management software: Enables legal operations professionals to track and manage legal matters, including contracts, litigation and compliance issues.  
  • Contract management software: Provides a centralized platform for managing contracts throughout their lifecycle, from drafting to negotiation and execution. The software includes features like contract tracking, document management and e-signature integration.
  • Legal research tools: Enables legal operations professionals to conduct research and stay up to date on legal developments. These tools provide access to legal databases, case law and regulatory updates.
  • eDiscovery: Helps legal teams to manage the discovery process in litigation, enabling them to identify and collect relevant electronic documents and data.
  • Project management tools: Allows legal operations professionals to plan, track and manage legal projects, with features like task management, project timelines and resource allocation.
  • Document Management tools: Enables legal operations professionals to manage documents across the entire legal department, from contracts to legal briefs and other documents. The software includes features like version control, access control and search functionality.
  • Analytics and reporting tools: Help legal ops professionals paint a picture and allow for storytelling through data.  
  • Collaboration and communication tools: Promote collaboration and communication more effectively, with features like document sharing.
  • Legal billing and financial management software: Aids in the management of legal billing and financial processes, with features like time tracking, invoicing and expense management.
  • In house legal software: Enable legal teams to improve the access, value, and speed of their services

How can Checkbox help your Team?

Checkbox's workflow automation platform can help elevate legal ops by providing a centralized platform to manage and automate legal workflows. The platform enables legal teams to automate routine tasks and processes, freeing up time for higher-level strategic work. With Checkbox, legal operations professionals can easily create custom workflows, define business rules and automate tasks such as contract review, approvals, renewals and even more functionalities key for day-to-day use.  

Checkbox can also help legal departments improve collaboration and communication across teams. The platform enables legal teams to share documents, track progress and collaborate in real-time, reducing the need for time-consuming and error-prone manual processes. With Checkbox, legal operations professionals can easily assign tasks, set deadlines and track progress, ensuring that legal projects are completed on time and within budget.

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