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Legal tipsMay 8, 2020

Legal Operations Manager: a Fresh Vision of the Profession

After the coronavirus outbreak, the law sector was forced to adapt to the new environment. To keep performing routine tasks, legal teams had to optimize processes and implement a variety of digital solutions. But since lawyers commonly lagged behind in adopting new technologies, the gap between “how things worked before” and “how things work now” has quickly become quite large.

Naturally, expectations from a legal operations manager have also increased. Today, having a law degree isn’t enough to resolve all the challenges faced by legal departments. A person responsible for legal operations must also possess a variety of skills from entirely different domains.

To find out how companies see an ideal candidate for this position, we analyzed a number of job ads posted on Indeed.com within the last two months. In this article, we’ll outline the most important requirements that modern legal ops professionals must meet to be efficient in their role.

Today, having a law degree isn’t enough to resolve all the challenges faced by legal departments.

Business intelligence

The digitalization of routine processes allows legal ops managers to collect a lot of data that can potentially be used to improve the efficiency of a legal department. A person in this position should feel comfortable diving into the numbers and processing a large amount of heterogeneous information. In addition, a legal operations professional must be able to set clear KPIs for team members and use relevant metrics to measure their performance.

Also, to be able to extract the right insights from the data, legal ops managers need to have a good understanding of business in general. A legal department doesn’t exist in a vacuum—its work impacts the decisions made by the company’s top management. Besides, a legal team interacts with other departments and external providers. So a legal operations manager should have a business mindset to know what data to use to generate maximum value for an organization.

If you still lack business intelligence skills, there are a lot of opportunities to learn them remotely. For instance, you can enroll in online courses offered by Harvard University, Coursera, or edX that provide decent content on this topic. In particular, they’ll teach you to use the data strategically, discover correlations you never saw before, and properly report these findings to a general counsel or CEO.

Project management

For legal operations specialists, quarantine measures have brought an additional challenge in terms of project management. Due to widespread office shutdowns, most legal teams shifted to the work-from-home mode. Yet, typical workflows at a legal department aren’t adjusted to the remote performance of tasks, so it became much harder to manage them effectively.

To ensure that a team works productively while staying in self-isolation, legal ops professionals may apply agile project management methodologies like Kanban. This framework is commonly used in software development but it can also be tailored to legal operations. Mastering project management skills will allow you to employ new initiatives, embrace transparency, and complete complex tasks on time and on budget despite all the constraints.

To ensure that a team works productively while staying in self-isolation, legal ops professionals may apply agile project management methodologies.

Even after a team returns to the office, effective project management will help you properly distribute resources, evaluate the department performance, and scale up projects without losing quality or needing to hire extra staff.

Smart use of technology

When the lockdown was enforced, legal departments had to move all operations to the digital space. Trying not to lose much time on the transition, some teams started to implement random tools just to get the work done. But this approach is negligent and shortsighted. Moreover, it can lead to over-spendings and data leakages. So a good understanding of technologies is one of the key legal operations skills nowadays.

It doesn’t mean legal ops managers must know how to code. However, they should have sufficient knowledge to establish a digital vision for a legal department, determine the team’s technological needs, and address them by choosing optimal legal operations software.

Besides, to gain positive results from automation, an organization should strive to digitize their entire business cycles as opposed to focusing on separate processes. That’s why a legal ops manager must be able to select tools that can either be integrated with other systems or offer end-to-end coverage of specific legal operations.

For instance, AXDRAFT can automate the full contract lifecycle management in your company by streamlining all work related to the generation of typical agreements. With the help of our service, a legal team can reduce the time spent drafting routine documents (NDAs, DPAs, SLAs, etc.) and free up resources for more complex tasks.

Training and support

The job responsibilities of a legal operations manager aren’t just limited to the implementation of new technologies. A person in this position should also ensure that all digital tools are properly used by a legal team. Otherwise, the company's investments in technology initiatives like contract automation or e-billing will be wasted.

It’s vital to understand that one-time onboarding that usually takes place within the hiring process is rarely sufficient for employees. The toolset used by an organization changes over time, so a legal operations manager has to make sure that everyone is on the same page with the new workflows and solutions. That’s why the ability to identify employees’ learning needs and organize necessary training sessions is another critical skill for modern legal ops professionals.

one-time onboarding that usually takes place within the hiring process is rarely sufficient for employees.

The final word

The COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns forced the majority of businesses to amplify digital transformation. Today, two months of quarantine have already passed and innovation initiatives caused by the current health crisis have started to bring real benefits. So we have all the reasons to believe that the process is irreversible and it won’t stop even when the world goes back to normal. For legal operations managers, it means their role in companies will continue growing, and being a quick learner will become the number one requirement for candidates for this position.

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