Should Your Next Strategic Hire be A Legal Ops Professional?

In the 2019 State of Corporate Law Departments Improving the Impact of Legal Services, innovation was a key theme and sets the stage for the context of continual change- in the ever changing world of work.

“Innovation incorporates a whole host of different areas, such as embracing legal technologies, utilizing expert professionals holistically with lawyers, overhauling work processes and pricing models, and building collaborative partnerships between in-house teams and their outside law firms and alternative legal services suppliers.”

In the context of a rapidly changing world of work, many in–house law departments are embracing the role of Legal Operations. How does “legal ops” function within your legal team and how do you maintain momentum in driving change or process improvement as part of the fabric of your legal team?

Recently, we invited Reese Arrowsmith, VP of Legal Ops, Campbell Soup, to engage with our GC Connect community to give a strategic perspective on the role of legal operations and the General Counsel. The depth and breadth of the legal ops function is simultaneously both broad and intricately detailed and could be intimidating if tackled all at once. Reese followed the Association of Corporate Counsel Guidelines in creating and executing a legal ops function for two organizations. Those Guidelines, if followed, can be an excellent roadmap to success.

If you have ad hoc components of legal ops already in place, it may not be clear how to navigate “growing” forward. As a starting point, consider consolidating your legal data analytics with one professional.

  • What are the key indicators to measure your legal team’s success? What is your team’s performance based on and are those behaviors measured?
  • How might you consolidate the data to improve operational efficiency?

Understanding where your legal department costs are and reducing those costs may be the momentum you and your team need to ignite the process and establish a legal ops role. By demonstrating cost reductions, you can make a business case to hire a legal ops professional.

Most general counsel would agree that vendor relations or vendor management is where the most impactful cost reduction lays Undertaken properly; this can prove to be a powerful resource for securing headcount. For example, if in the first year vendor management can be modestly reduced by $200,000, the cost savings may lay the foundation for hiring a full-time professional. Once the legal ops function is established, the cost savings in years two, three and four can be material. In addition, establishing a legal ops function can increase operational efficiency, create synergies with internal departments, may reduce turnover and raises the profile of the legal team internally and externally.

ACC‘s legal ops strategic plan provides a roadmap toward planning and implementing your customized legal ops program. You can pick the segment or category to focus on, and begin. The “category” sections are not in a chronological order. However, it has been suggested that by focusing on vendor management you will have the greatest opportunity to achieve savings and therefore gain the attention of the executive management team to hopefully approve new headcount which may begin the infrastructure toward integrating a legal ops function within your legal department.

Some have asked, does the legal ops professional need to be an attorney or not? We have seen both non- attorneys and attorneys successful in this role. It’s the profile of the professional that contributes to success. Individual competencies, skills, training, experience, traits and cultural fit are important factors and are the best predictors of success. Having practiced law in house or at a firm can be  a value add in bringing depth and knowledge to the role, and we have seen hands on legal ops experience bring the same level of depth and knowledge to a legal team. The recruiting to legal ops profile is a better predictor of success.