Legal operations is a growing focus in legal departments, owning several key initiatives to legal teams’ success. Legal operations teams are responsible for actively pursuing ways to improve existing legal workflows and processes, as well as managing budgets, timelines, and successfully working cross-functionally with other teams in their organization.
While these are the general responsibilities for legal operations teams, we’re going to take a look at specific initiatives to start with as you’re ramping up.
Success with any new team or initiative starts with support from key stakeholders in an organization. In a recent interview with Jeremy Gottschalk, former General Counsel of Sittercity and Founder and CEO of Marketplace Risk, we discussed how his success was launched through buy-in from the Sittercity executive team.
Gottschalk shares how significant it was that the C-suite valued the legal department, and how having a seat at the leadership table helped the legal department anticipate issues, making his time there incredibly successful. This championing from the leadership team helped Sittercity become a benchmark for its risk management methodology, and led Gottschalk to launch Marketplace Risk, which is pioneering the collaboration and best practice sharing of in-house lawyers across the entire online marketplace vertical.
Learn more by tuning into our podcast.
The overarching goal for any legal ops team is like that of any operations team: to make the organization they support a well-oiled machine.
Here are some examples of specific areas your legal ops team should focus on in year 1:
Build a consensus of what your metrics of success are: Legal teams aren’t typically measured like the rest of the organization. It’s important to establish a consensus on where your legal team wants to improve, and more importantly, where you’re going to measure your improvement.
Manage your inbox of requests from legal: Focus on eliminating parts of the process that can bog legal down, like negotiation of agreements that should be standard that typically aren’t, like NDAs, offer letters, and employment agreements.
Contract lifecycle management (CLM): If you don’t have it, you should! For negotiating agreements, contract lifecycle management helps organizations streamline the process of auditing and tracking all of the contracts out in the wild. These are things like vendor agreements, sales contracts, and partner contracts. In some cases, even your standard agreements can fit into a CLM strategy.
There may also be additional contracts that are standardized and are being accepted online, in your mobile app, or through other standardized workflows. Your terms of service and NDAs, for example, might not be negotiated contracts, but you should maintain the same level of auditing and control of them from a legal ops perspective.
The primary purpose of a CLM platform is to streamline both the management and the workflow associated with getting negotiated contracts into a centralized repository. Improvements in that workflow are worth revisiting once you have this basic system in place.
As with a CLM platform, streamlining spend helps legal ops departments’ overall budgeting and resource management. Technology budget is not something that’s typically been managed or handled by a legal team outside of e-discovery and litigation spend.
Legal operations folks are typically looking at all sorts of new technologies to support the streamlining of legal workflows. Pro tip: Allocate a budget to some key legal ops initiatives by doing basic homework on CLM, e-signature, etc., and stick to it. You can use year 2 to hone-in on what worked and double down, as well as to explore new opportunities to streamline.
Leveraging technology, like contract lifecycle management tools, helps standardize workflows across teams within the company. It’s really important to engage key stakeholders across the business to ensure that legal is being a good partner in every way that matters.
Risk prevention is only one metric that matters to the business; being a good partner means reconciling velocity and scale with the way your business wants to move forward and the legal risk in doing so. The role of legal operations’ role will be to help navigate and collaborate with other internal teams to ensure that balance is being met.
Looking to hire a legal ops team member? Check out our latest post on developing a job description for your legal ops’ hire.
Download our eBook, Building a Legal Ops Department from Scratch for more details on where to start when building out a legal ops function and trying to achieve foundational competency.