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Legal tipsJanuary 16, 2020

3 Things to Keep in Mind for a Newly Appointed Head of Legal Ops

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Legal operation or legal ops professional is a high-demand role revolving around process and project management as well as consulting matters. Headed by a capable manager with a profound consulting and operations background, a legal operations department can make a difference in terms of efficiency and optimization. An essential role of head of legal ops requires a particular skill set with a clear vision of goals and the ways to achieve them. Here are several tips coined by AXDRAFT to help you clarify the duties of a head of legal ops.

One of the major reports by the Association of Corporate Counsel revealed in 2019 that in the forthcoming years, 15% of legal departments plan to hire more legal ops professionals. Another market research by New York-based Zion Market Research proves that the legal ops software market is expected to reach around $3.6 billion by 2027. Figures speak for themselves: legal operations ramp up. Today, not only Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 firms lead the charge. Smaller and midsize companies woke up to the fact that legal ops add efficiency and agility to LDs. They attract seasoned managers to move legal teams toward goals like tech adoption, cost-saving, and quality control.

If a legal department is viewed as a fully-functional business, then the role of a head of legal operations best corresponds to COO. However, even though some of their obligations may overlap with those of COO, the main task of the head of legal ops is to maximize the delivery of legal services throughout the firm in the most rational way. From data and financial analysis up to strategic planning, legal operations is a kind of an ‘umbrella’ for multiple functions. Let’s have a look at the typical tasks a newly appointed head of legal ops will be accountable for:

  • Managing LD’s resources and processes
  • Managing workflow and knowledge
  • Keeping up asset portfolios
  • Dealing with legal data analytics
  • Integrating practice-specific technologies
  • Supporting legal team members and internal clients
  • Take note of our suggestions, if you are new on board in this role. We do believe they’ll help you succeed.

    A Map of Reality Sometimes Differs From Objective Reality

    Once you get down to work, you’ll learn that what looks good on paper won’t necessarily pass the “reality check.” Since you’re now responsible for a smooth workflow and proper use of procedures, even the smallest deviations might become a thorn in your side. Try not to get overwhelmed with the procedures recorded on paper and better talk to colleagues. Talking to people from the legal department or other internal units, you’ll learn the real state of affairs.

    Golden rule of startups applies to legal ops too. Talk to your customers (lawyers) to learn about real problems you need to solve. Don’t follow the trends.

    Workflow management needs regular supervision, so make sure that necessary schedules and reminders are established from the get-go, especially if some procedures are not laid down on paper. But if you see that things won’t work just as the regulations and instructions say, be brave enough to promote your own rules. And be ready to face an angry backlash. People are usually reluctant to change, and routine often seems more comfortable than some vague workflow improvement. But still: this is exactly the reason why you were hired, so don’t hesitate to initiate changes.

    Pieces of the Puzzle

    As soon as you overcome initial resilience, you face the risk again - this time of being buried under an avalanche of requests featuring all sorts of employees' pains. At this point, it’s important to understand that even though you need to work in a collaborative, cross-functional way, you won’t be able to fully satisfy the demand. What’s more, not all the requests deserve your attention.

    To omit low-level issues or requests, survey employees against the right metrics. To start with, find out more about external stakeholders dealing with the LD, legal technologies applied, operation goals, and hiring policies. Next, look for patterns and insights in the data you gathered. You’ll need it to create, say, three frameworks and think about how to improve the outcomes you witnessed. Remember, there is no ideal solution to all the issues at once and your action plan must reflect it. Pick the one improvement that will bring most value. It will be your first piece of the puzzle that goes toward the full picture of operational and functional effectiveness. Keep pace.

    Pick the one area of improvement that will bring the most value. Focus on it. Keep pace.

    Don’t Take Too Long with Implementation

    Now that you’re ready to turn to the technological side of operations, you’ll need to do some research. To achieve the improvement goals, you’ll need to make sure that the technological component won’t let you down. Investigate whether the most value-added framework you discovered could be implemented through currently used platforms and services.

    Discuss your plans and ideas with an account manager from the service provider side. Your task is to find out about any hidden costs or technological shortcomings. Ignore mediocrity and consider the best quality-price ratio. Be selective. The odds are good that on the legal tech market, you’ll find companies doing exactly what you need for more reasonable pricing.

    In the legal drafting sphere, you might well consider AXDRAFT. Our solution provides industry-standard automation with subscriptions adjustable to documents generation rate. Transparent fee arrangements and 2 weeks roll-out period are among the top benefits of using AXDRAFT to achieve goals set for legal ops.

    The approach you selected might not fit particular software. In fact, the technological component might not be the only key to reach the set goals. If this is your case, reserve some time for meetings with the HR department. You’ll need to find out what are the best ways to manage employees’ responsibilities or to get new staff on board.

    Wrapping Up

    Legal operations are gaining momentum. Heads of legal ops are highly valued for helping companies to make progress. That’s why they’re placed at the top of this domain featuring best practices from the operations, consultancy, and legal spheres. We know that heads of legal ops might face quite challenging tasks. And we hope that recommendations by AXDRAFT will help you in a quest for the most rational solutions.

    If you’re also interested in practical tips for newly appointed general counsel, we got them covered in one of our recent posts. Just follow the link.

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