By Matt Ryan, Legal Files Software Senior Consultant
Have you noticed that more attorneys are using the term legal operations? If so, you might be wondering what this new buzz phrase means. Legal operations isn’t a new concept. It’s a multidisciplinary method to optimize legal services delivery to a government entity, university or business. This concept focuses on 12 core competencies.
- Litigation support offers e-discovery, legal holds and document review.
- Cross-functional alignment fosters relationships with other key enterprise functions, including HR and IT.
- Strategic planning helps develop a long-term strategy to achieve annual goals.
- Financial management handles the departmental budget to identify spending trends and opportunities for cost savings.
- Vendor management helps create a program to retain high-quality and cost-effective services.
- Data analytics collect and analyze data to provide dashboards and metrics.
- Technology support provides matter management, contract management, billing and document assembly tools.
- Service delivery drives departmental efficiency by leveraging managed services and other service providers.
- Knowledge management offers access to legal and departmental knowledge.
- Growth and development helps globalize the team and provide opportunities for growth and collaboration.
- Communications keep all department employees informed and collaborating.
- Records management creates a program for record retention and organization.
Basically, legal operations encompasses everything that legal departments need to manage and organize to successfully deliver legal services to the enterprise (university, government agency or company) they serve. But with so many areas of need, how can you keep it all straight? The answer is by implementing effective enterprise legal management to streamline workflow, automate processes, manage knowledge and provide reporting metrics.
To best provide legal services to the enterprise, it’s important to successfully implement legal operations. The team at Legal Files Software has been helping legal departments implement enterprise legal management for 25+ years, and we have found that there are eight steps to a successful implementation of legal operations. This article will cover the first four steps.
Step One – Perform an Assessment
The best starting point for implementing legal operations is an assessment of your legal department. You want to understand where your department is now and where you hope to be in the future. While all legal departments have some similarities, each one has unique needs and goals. Take time to assess your current technology, processes and staffing situation as well as what you hope to accomplish with enterprise legal management.
You don’t have to undergo the assessment process alone. You can partner with Legal Files Software and benefit from our nearly three decades of experience and knowledge of the best practices in legal operations. Your legal department can also examine what other departments have done and learn from their successes and mistakes. Attending legal conferences, such as the 2018 Annual Corporate Legal Operations Institute in Las Vegas, is a great opportunity to learn more about legal operations and the available options.
Step Two – Examine the Workflow
While you are assessing your current resources and needs during step one of legal operations implementation, your department should also examine workflow within your enterprise. This is the way that information and tasks flow through an enterprise. One of the most common methods is submitting a request for legal services. It’s important to understand how your legal department handles workflow so that you can identify ways to improve efficiency.
It’s easy to keep following the same routine. However, thinking about the process can make a huge difference in terms of organization, efficiency and transparency among legal staff and other members of the enterprise. Visiting a legal conference or speaking with an enterprise legal management system provider can open your eyes to a new world of workflow management possibilities.
Step Three – Explore Tracking Needs
Each legal department needs to track specific information, but no department has the same tracking needs. For example, a legal aid organization might need to track the number of clients served from a certain region or income bracket. In contrast, a university may need to track certain types of legal and disciplinary actions. Even within similar types of legal departments, the needs can vary widely.
Take a moment to determine the reporting and tracking needs for your department. Daily and big picture reporting needs can be very different, so consider your needs from both perspectives. By understanding what is important for your department to track, you can determine what type of tracking and reporting features your enterprise legal management software will need to have. During this process, you can speak to colleagues at different organizations and representatives at legal conferences while also considering what your department has done in the past. By looking at what has worked and what hasn’t you can get a better sense of how to improve legal operations in the future.
Step Four – Evaluate Tasks and Relationships
You aren’t alone as a legal department. In fact, your department works with a number of individuals and entities outside of your office. In addition to non-legal employees of the enterprise, you also interact with outside council, vendors and sometimes clients. The way that your department performs tasks can affect your relationships.
If you do not have effective legal operations, you might find that your department struggles with organization, efficiency, communication and costs. By implementing effective legal operations, you can improve relationships outside of your legal department and control costs, which is critical as more legal professionals are having to do more with less.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series to learn the final steps for implementing successful legal operations. You can also visit the Legal Files Software team at the 2018 Annual Corporate Legal Operations Institute in Las Vegas to learn even more about how the right legal operations can make all the difference in your legal department.