“Legal ops”, short for legal operations, is a popular topic of late in the legal press and on the legal tech conference circuit. Despite the recent attention, it is likely not a fad. Forty three percent of those surveyed in the 2017 Association of Corporate Counsel’s Chief Legal Officers Survey reported they had at least one person dedicated to legal operations. That number is sure to grow over the next few years as companies try to reduce legal bills and increase legal department efficiency.
Legal Ops in a Nutshell
A good place to start learning about legal operations is with the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), a non-profit organization of legal operations professionals formed to educate, sharing best practices, network, and drive change across the “corporate legal services ecosystem.”
CLOC describes legal ops as
a multi-disciplinary function that optimizes legal services delivery to a business or government entity by focusing on twelve core competencies:
- Strategic Planning
- Vendor Management
- Data Analytics
- Technology Support
- Alternative Support Models (using legal process outsourcing and alternative legal service providers)
- Knowledge Management
- Professional Development and Team Building
- Global Data Governance / Records Management
- Litigation Support
- Cross-Functional Alignment (to foster relationships between key company functions, such as HR, IT, and Finance)
Frances Pomposo, Head of Legal Operations at Lyft, says legal operations is “a multifaceted function that serves as the business function of a legal department.” Pomposo notes that “the legal department has a unique perspective since it connects with all areas of the business and the legal operations team ends up being involved in a number of initiatives that fall into the categories outside the legal department”. She also notes that her role at Lyft spans many areas including strategy, budget planning, vendor and outside counsel management, knowledge management, staffing and training, e-discovery, project management, security, and acting as a de facto chief of staff for the GC.
Theresa Chang, Director of Legal Operations at Splunk, describes the goal of a legal ops team as “provid[ing] the infrastructure to optimize legal service delivery to the business.” She uses the term ‘infrastructure” to mean “ensuring that the right people are involved in the right processes and are supported by the right tools/technology.”
Chang says to carry out her role, she has four goals: (1) identify best practices and enabling technologies, (2) create a globally connected department, (3) design growth and development opportunities and (4) ensure effective resource allocation.
Legal Operations: A Changing Role
Lyft’s Pomposo says she touches nearly every area of the legal department and ends up supporting many initiatives outside the department as well. She also points out that “if you are in legal operations then you essentially need to be prepared for surprises and change every day. That’s part of what makes the role so interesting. One of the biggest surprises is the number of areas and responsibilities you support in the role.”
Chang agrees that dealing with change is a big part of legal ops. In fact she says that when she started her role she did not realize how important change management would be. Chang says an important part of her job is managing expectations and time.
Want to Learn More About Legal Ops?
As noted, the CLOC website is a great resource to learn more about legal operations–including the Recommended Reading Page. The Association of Corporate Counsel also has a legal operations section that provides legal ops resources for its members.