Driving Disruption in the Legal Department Part III: What’s Ahead for Legal Operations

In part II of this blog series we discussed the joining of forces of legal operations and technology. Technology has been a key player in the unprecedented growth of legal operations in recent years, and this relationship will continue growing even faster. Now it’s time to reveal what some experts have to say about the future of legal ops.

To set the stage for what the future holds, it’s best to see the current lay of the land in legal operations. There have been some major disruptions in the legal sector in the past decade, one of which is advancements in technology. Some external and internal drivers of change have been the rising cost of legal services, the strategy of doing more with less, globalization, mergers and acquisitions, and advancements in cutting-edge technologies1.

Onit’s CEO Eric M. Elfman and Nathan Wenzel, General Manager and Co-founder of SimpleLegal have each spent almost three decades in disciplines that are now known as legal operations. Based on their experiences, these thought leaders foresee continued growth in legal ops, with legal operations professionals moving well past matter management, spend management, and the selection of counsel and evolving into more strategic roles. Here are their seven predictions for the future of legal operations:

  1. Legal operations professionals will continue to take on administrative burdens – in far more areas than spend management – in order to let lawyers be lawyers.
  2. Law departments will work to untangle overcomplexity in their enterprise legal management systems and return to basics that allow work to be done more efficiently and effectively.
  3. The use of collaboration and workflow tools will continue to grow as the legal function becomes more global and complex.
  4. More will be expected of technology vendors, and law departments will less frequently integrate a variety of tools and instead build platforms that handle multiple functions seamlessly.
  5. Legal ops professionals will engage more closely and directly with their companies’ businesses units, with a heightened focus on turn time and customer satisfaction.
  6. Law departments will build expertise to match the pricing experts that have become commonplace in law firms. Firms currently have the advantage in negotiations and AFAs because they understand the data better; legal ops will look to even the playing field.
  7. Legal operations professionals – and in-house counsel – must get better at data and analytics in order to make better decisions to behave more like business units while also better serving their clients.

Advancements in technology, process-driven service delivery and evolving and segmented roles in operations will be spearheading the future of legal operations for many years to come. The most proactive legal departments have already recognized this and are taking control of their future by taking action now.

Click here to read the white paper, Driving Disruption in the Law Department.

1 The legal department of the future: How disruptive trends are creating a new business model for in-house counsel. Deloitte, 2018.

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