Legal operations professionals value the experience of their peers. They turn to each other to share best practices, overcome challenges, and enhance the performance of their corporate legal departments.
Now, they can access the collective feedback from legal ops professionals representing 140 companies in 30 industries and 17 countries, thanks to the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). The powerhouse industry organization – which the founders affectionately called “the book club” – has released its Third Annual State of the Industry Survey.
The State of Legal Operations
According to the survey participants, corporate legal departments experienced growth in demand for legal services and continued to focus on various means to control costs. Many grew their legal operations teams and continued to invest in technology.
The survey found that 52% of companies kept the ratio of work between in-house and external firms the same, but this differed by size. Sixty-seven percent of large companies reported their ratio remained the same, while only 49% of medium and 30% of small companies said the same. Forty-one percent of small companies reported moving more work in-house and 30% reported outsourcing more legal work. Thirty-one percent of medium companies moved more work in- house and 20% outsourced more legal work.
Costs have shot up, with the survey finding that 61 cents of every dollar spent on legal costs was spent on external legal costs – a 15-cent increase from 2018.
Return on Investment
The survey also revealed that corporate legal departments had achieved even higher ROIs from increasing technology resources. The implementation of technology has helped reduce the number of staff each legal operations FTE is supporting by 7 compared to 2019, enabling teams to provide more granular support to all practice areas.
Leading Legal Ops Technology
What’s the most commonly implemented technology for corporate legal departments? According to the survey results, eBilling systems take the lead at 76%. The use of e-Signature technologies increased by 27% and document management increased by 12% this year compared to last year.
Rating Maturity Levels and Stating Priorities
CLOC asked survey participants to rate their legal departments’ overall level of experience with technology from “emerging” to “leading.” This year’s survey indicates that 17% of respondents feel their technology is in the “leading” stage, while 34% feel theirs is somewhere between “developing” and “leading.” The remaining 49% believe their technology is in the developing or lesser stages.
When asked about priorities, legal ops professionals had a tie for the top 2020 priority. Implementing new technology solutions came in at 71%, the same as automating legal processes. Low priorities included implementing an intern program (82%) and increasing legal ops headcount (66%).
The future looks exceptionally bright for this field, and we should continue to see even greater reliance on legal operations. Legal operations professionals continue to evolve, segment and specialize to meet business demands. Innovation and technology are expected to not only contribute but spearhead this evolution.