Legal Operations Functions and Benefits

February 15, 2022
Legal Operations Functions and Benefits

[Download our Legal Operations Project Management Toolkit for a step-by-step guide to implementing a new process, launching software, establishing organization-wide policy, or whatever your goal.]

A properly functioning legal operations program ensures that the legal organization is scaling, is strategically focused, is delivering on commitments, and has a seat at the table with the other business units within a company. From hiring and vendor management to the adoption of legal tools and process improvement, Bloomberg Law has the tools and resources to help you manage key legal operations functions.

What is legal operations?

Legal operations (also known as “legal ops”), most simply put, is the business support of the legal function.

It involves a multidisciplinary approach to managing a legal organization or department, with the goal of improving efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Though core competencies can vary, they often include such functions as organizational planning, project management, people management, and legal technology.

Legal operations functions encompass all tasks required to achieve success from a business perspective and support teams in providing high-quality and efficient legal services to their internal or external clients.

Legal ops can be present in law firms and in-house legal departments. Ideally, each legal department should be run as if it were its own business. A properly functioning legal ops program ensures that the legal organization is scaling, is strategically focused, is delivering on commitments, and has a seat at the table with the other business units within a company.

Legal ops programs cover areas such as hiring and career development, knowledge management, technology, project management, and more, which are now responsibilities of general counsel and legal departments, regardless of company size and revenue. Many departments or firms may not officially have a legal operations function, but likely already have people supporting aspects of legal operations, whether recognized or not. This is often the precursor to establishing a defined organization or role to discharge the legal operations function.

What are some key legal operations resources and functions?

Organizational Planning

Organizational planning is essential to effectively running a legal organization and involves developing goals, as well as the strategies and policies to support those goals.

Business Performance

Once you have identified your goals and the necessary strategies and policies to support them, you’ll need to decide how to define success and determine the tools for tracking and measuring whether you are succeeding based on your defined metrics. There are many ways to measure success, and the appropriate tools may change based on factors such as the size and structure of the company or team, financial and policy goals of the business, political and cultural issues, and personalities involved.

Outside Legal Services

Whether you are a law firm or a legal department within a larger business, you likely utilize outside legal services. The cost associated with these services may be significant; in fact, for many legal departments, outside legal services could be the largest line item in the budget, made up primarily of outside counsel fees. Effectively managing outside legal services processes can significantly reduce costs and improve efficiency and quality.

Legal Technology

A widely recognized aspect of a legal operations professional’s role, legal operations technology covers a range of technologies. Some were designed specifically for use by legal professionals while others are general technologies used both inside and outside the legal industry.

Project Management

The practice of law is frequently experienced through a series of tasks that make up a broader project or matter, and effective management of the project or matter can mean the difference between a positive and a negative experience by the numerous individuals involved.

People Management

At the end of the day, you are only as good as the people who support you and your department. While frequently overlooked or only attended to when things are going wrong, the importance of effectively managing this incredible resource cannot be overstated.

Why is organized project management essential to success?

While the tenets of project management may seem overly formulaic or complex, legal ops professionals and their organizations stand to benefit from using project management processes.

Project management is broad, and its principles can further legal operations projects as well as other projects, including matter and case management. Legal project management processes can assist legal ops professionals to more seamlessly:

  • map a step-by-step way to navigate projects
  • design project documentation, such as communication, change management, and project plans
  • choose methodologies by which to manage the project
  • follow best practices for project planning, execution, monitoring, and closure

What are the benefits of implementing legal ops technology and tools?

According to Bloomberg Law’s 2023 Legal Operations Survey, respondents most often state improving productivity and workflows as the top reasons for their organization’s use of legal tech. This year, meeting client and company demands took the third spot, ahead of improving work quality. Consistent with the past two years, a lack of tech-savvy users was cited as the main barrier to their organization’s legal tech use.

While the implementation of legal technology continues to become more common, developing processes to measure the value and efficiency of such technology have yet to catch up. Similar to last year, more than 70% of respondents either do not currently have a process in place to evaluate the legal technologies they are using or are just not sure if a process exists.