As the wave of Legal Transformation continues to unfold, we observe that the concept of “transformation” is no longer limited to comprehensive, all-encompassing changes in the operating model. Instead, we are witnessing significant and hard-earned progress in specific areas of legal operations. A Legal Operations Benchmarking study conducted in 2022, the top 10 transformation priorities for 2023 across global legal departments are as followed:
- Reducing Spend
- Leverage and manage internal resources
- Legal Operations & Automation
- Risk & Compliance Management
- Contract Management
- Performance Management
- Performance Management & Data Analytics
- Efficiency & Cycle Times
- Knowledge & Content Management
- Sourcing optimization & Balance of resources
Growing Focus on Legal Ops Automation: Ensuring the Right Work Reaches the Right Hands
While cost control remains an ongoing priority due to persistent cost pressures, it is worth noting that leveraging internal resources and automating legal operations closely follow. The reason why: automation goes beyond mere efficiency gains.
Legal departments are actively implementing low/no code software & applications and, to a lesser extent, robotic process automation (RPA). The objective is not only to accelerate processes but also to exercise control over internal work allocation and generate valuable data.
Legal Ops automation tools are most commonly employed in corporate legal departments to manage legal request intake and routing. These tools utilize dynamic forms to collect information from internal clients, triggering customized flows that ensure requests reach the appropriate individuals in the most efficient manner. Frequently asked questions receive tailored responses, new matters or documents can be generated instantly, and more nuanced requests for advice and tasks are directed to the relevant person within the legal department. This person may not necessarily be the most senior asset, such as a tenured in-house counsel. Instead, a junior lawyer or paraprofessional can address the request, allowing the top lawyers—often relied upon for strategic legal advice—to focus on higher-level matters and strategical advice.
The appeal of using these tools lies in their ability to determine who should handle each request based on predefined logic, and controls & permissions, transforming it into a manageable task. Moreover, gaining structured visibility into the communications and actions associated with legal service requests benefits all stakeholders, particularly the legal department when seeking to counter claims of being a bottleneck.
However, the significance of the data-driven insights obtained from these automation tools cannot be underestimated.
Leveraging Data for Enhanced Operational Performance
Over time, legal departments utilizing automation tools generate valuable operational data. This data not only reveal the volume and nature of requests and potential improvements in response times but also enables the legal department to identify opportunities for enhancing services through additional legal resources, whether human or informational.
Effectively harnessing the ever growing volume of data has become a challenge, prompting a growing focus on organizing it for performance management analytics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
As a testament to increased operational maturity, many legal departments have moved beyond initial data-gathering efforts and now concentrate on selecting and methodically acting upon KPI’s presented via stakeholder-specific dashboards.
The key lies in aligning these metrics with the business priorities.
For instance, in situations where spending reduction is imperative, metrics help in understanding cost drivers and benchmarking to identify potential adjustments. Benchmarking data, for example, can provide valuable insights to advocate for insourcing specific types of legal work, adjusting staffing ratios over time, or revising the mix of providers handling outsourced work.
Taking a strategic approach to legal operations involves not only focusing on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) but also emphasizing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). In essence, Legal Ops attains effective maturity by concentrating on a few clearly defined objectives and making measurable progress through the pursuit of no more than two or three key initiatives each year.