‘Doing More with Less’: How Law Department Operations Help Provide Value to Legal and Beyond
If recent years are any indication, law department operations are no longer focused on providing efficiencies to the corporate legal department, alone. In many companies today, the legal operations function is taking an “outward-facing approach,” helping to deliver value to other areas of the enterprise, too.
Perhaps the best evidence of their new depth and maturity can be found in the 14th Annual Law Department Operations (LDO) Survey. The oldest and most comprehensive law department operations survey was created by the Blickstein Group to provide law departments with a platform with which to benchmark themselves.
In the 2021 LDO Survey, “Navigating in the Era of Doing More With Less,” respondents revealed their most important key performance indicators (KPIs) at the moment: “actually spend versus law department’s total budget,” “value provided to the corporation,” and “customer or client feedback.” They also reported that they now have substantial interactions on matters that stretch beyond the legal department. Seventy-three percent said they are “frequently” or “very frequently” involved in cross-functional objectives — think contract management program involving both legal and procurement. Meanwhile, more than half said they are “frequently” or “very frequently” a part of enterprise-wide strategic initiatives.
All of these responses, along with the answers highlighted below, clearly illustrate how legal ops has moved well beyond internal projects. They show how the department stands to lead projects that transcend legal — and become a crucial point of contact for all other functions.
Improving Contract Management
In the latest LDO Survey, legal operations professionals revealed just how much their sphere of influence has expanded, especially around contract management. This is a process for which law departments provide support and by which they provide value to the rest of the company. In-house counsel regularly reviews agreements, whether for procurement or sales deals, in the pre-execution phase. They also help mitigate enterprise-wide risk post-execution, by understanding all of the terms and conditions in contracts or participating in major initiatives like M&A activities. To this end, 57 percent of survey respondents said they have or are planning to “update, evaluate, or implement both pre-and post-execution contract technology.”
More and more, legal ops professionals are using contract management software metrics in rather strategic ways. When ranking the most valuable metrics around contract lifecycle management (CLM), survey respondents placed “turnaround time” and “contract value” ahead of “tracking company and third-party paper.” And it is interesting to note that the former metrics are significantly outwardly facing.
Providing Efficiencies and Cost Savings
Let’s face it, today’s legal departments can provide direct value to companies by reducing spending, and identifying and mitigating additional risk. This is also where legal ops lend a great deal of support. Survey respondents said they spend 26 percent of their time focused on cost savings, efficiency, and management, more broadly.
Given the legal ops function has so many other responsibilities and tasks these days, this response was rather revealing. It also suggests at least one reason why the function is now interested in using legal management tools. Seventeen percent of survey respondents reported already having these tools, while slightly more than 28 percent said they are looking to update, evaluate, or implement this type of legal technology. In fact, nearly three-quarters surveyed currently gather important data from their e-billing systems, for example, and leverage this information to reduce overall costs.
Creating Value from Data Within Law Department Operations
When it comes to applying their skills and knowledge in emerging areas like data mining, more than a third of legal operations professionals who participated in the LDO Survey said they retrieve data for matters and department budgets. And another 21 percent said they plan to do more in this particular area. Meanwhile, 29 percent said they also mine data for the selection of counsels, while another 29 percent said they plan to do more of this in the future. But they acknowledged that they have much work to do in order to create more value from this data.
So judging by all of the responses above, it is quite clear that law department operations now expect to do more than just add value to the corporate legal department. Instead, they are looking more outwardly, to add value across the whole enterprise. They are aiming to play key roles not only in the law department, but also in the entire corporate ecosystem.
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