Driving Disruption in the Legal Department Part I: The Rapid Evolution of Legal Operations

The pressure to run the legal department like a business has been gaining traction for several years. Driving efficiencies and containing costs are two key reasons that legal operations is important and is growing so quickly. In addition, law departments were forced to adopt a more operationally focused mindset as a result of the Great Recession. The 2008 downturn was so severe, and efficiency and cost-cutting were considered so critical to the survival of the business at large, that the balloon popped. And since it has, C-suites have increasingly been making their law departments behave more like their other business units. This ultimately led to the rise of a profession dedicated to bringing business discipline to the law department: legal operations.

Legal operations professionals handle the management of vendors, systems, strategic planning, technology, knowledge, financial issues and the myriad other tasks that can overwhelm the legal department. Legal operations is all about optimizing the legal department’s ability to help grow the company, and is a multi-disciplinary function that optimizes legal services delivery to a business or government entity by focusing on twelve core competencies. The competencies, developed by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), are divided among three levels: foundational, advanced and mature. Almost every legal department function is covered, including vendor management, technology and process support, service delivery and litigation support.

Legal operations professionals are now managing outside vendors, implementing technology, overall legal spend and many other aspects of the legal department. And it’s not only happening in the Fortune 500 companies (as it was a few years ago); smaller companies are getting aboard as well. We believe that legal operations will be responsible for some of the biggest changes in the legal ecosystem in years to come.

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