As workplace ideologies evolve, it is now imperative for legal operations professionals to evolve as well. According to the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium’s (CLOC) 2021 State of the Industry Report, there has been a shift in the priorities of legal operations teams in incorporating automated legal processes such as contract and document management. As more advanced technology is implemented in legal operations orgs, now is the time for legal operations professionals to ensure that their position is of value to their organization.
By being proactive in an evolving profession such as legal operations will excel further into roles that you may not have thought were possible. This is exemplified by the experience of one of this piece's co-authors, Garett Monroe. Once an entertainment paralegal, Garett applied these core principles and shape-shifted his role over time to Director of Information Management & Legal Professionals at Netflix. We had the opportunity to speak to him about how he emerged in his career and he provided us with three core principles that he thought were essential in getting where he is today.
There are a few principles to keep in mind: to put yourself in a place to be considered for new opportunities, add value, and gain fulfillment out of your career. First and foremost, always be open to new opportunities, secondly shape your upcoming role, and lastly, never be a ‘secret agent’ - we will deep dive into all three points. As the legal business model shifts, you need to shift your mindset to accelerate your career.
Be open to opportunities
It’s not a unique saying to hear, but it’s rare to see someone do it. When your boss offers a project that has nothing to do with your job description, how many times have you raised your hand to offer assistance? Have you volunteered for an assignment that you didn’t know how to do? Rarely in these circumstances do people take on opportunities they don’t know how to execute. However, it’s one of the most important points to apply to building your resume, value, and expertise.
Usually, when you're promoted it’s more than likely a position that is directly above yours, that builds upon your experience in your current position. However, what if you wanted a position on a different legal team or department? A different industry? A different employer? How can you leverage your experience to be considered for different roles? Be open to new opportunities in your current role or stretch outside of your role.
According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace, only 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace. Being engaged and offering assistance when unnecessary showcases the value of being flexible and dependable. Furthermore, higher engagement of employees affects the productivity and success of a company, indicating your willingness to cultivate an enriching work environment for your organization. CLOC’s 2021 State of the Industry Report found that twenty-seven percent of participating legal departments formally review law firm performance, and an additional 47 percent want to implement a formal review process.
Legal management is evaluating their team's performance, but your performance and experience are important in hiring as well. That is why it is particularly important as a legal operations professional to work on projects with different teams at your organization such as procurement, research, development, or finance. Being able to showcase your experience in adaptability and then relay how applicable they are to the new position will set you apart from other potential candidates. Even if the opportunities don’t directly correlate with the new position, at the very least it demonstrates the fact that you are open to learning and trying new things.
Shape your upcoming roles
Several routine tasks were once time-consuming that will be reduced as the introduction of legal technology is implemented in legal work settings. This includes updating company files, preparing legal contracts, and reviewing documents, all of these processes will become less time-consuming, thus freeing up your workload. As a legal operations professional who either wants to advance their role or one who doesn’t want their position to become obsolete, you have to now shape your role. You can accomplish this by finding the gaps in your legal teams and working towards creating a role that tailors to the neglected and high-impact areas.
Although you may be inclined to gravitate to how lawyers think and work because you are surrounded by them, you must counteract that impulse and reframe how legal work can be done. The reason for this is that there are already people employed to look at the legal side of issues. As a legal operations professional you’re equipped with a wide variety of skills. You are required to have a skillset of process orientation, organization expertise, analytic ability, and quantitative thinking, which are attributes that lawyers don’t always emphasize. You can add more value by not trying to mimic what lawyers do and instead of expanding your thinking beyond legal considerations. Lawyers are trained to have legal tunnel vision, it is not only beneficial to your company but yourself to think critically about present issues and projects. You can find the blind spots in current projects and reimagine how legal work can be accomplished beyond the normal manual legal approach.
Don’t be a secret agent
Half the development battle is won when you are equipped with the knowledge, experience, and accomplishments under your belt. However, the other half of the battle requires you to share your ideas, experiences, and accomplishments. Since you are forging your path there is no set standard or blueprint, especially since the emergence of technology has lessened the manual workload of legal operations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of paralegals and legal assistants is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is as fast as the average for all occupations. Sharing the role you have created and the gaps you have filled will showcase the need for your position. It can also foster and further push the conversations about what else is needed. Your thinking and innovation can only go so far because the eyes do not see what the mind does not know. By networking and consulting with others in your field who either have the same aspirations as you or other organizations with needs that are not being met, you are stimulating the conversation and propelling your department into the future of legal operations.
Who you know and the relationships you cultivate will also ensure that the opportunities you have created for yourself will benefit you but also other emerging legal operations professionals as well. You must cultivate trusting relationships within your organization so you can lean into different opportunities outside of your comfort zone. Additionally, the relationships you create outside the workplace are just as vital. Being able to reach out to other professionals and share your journey with them and guide them on steps to take to boost their careers, will normalize the unconventional pathway that you took to boost your career.
Authored by Memme Onwudiwe - Founding Team Member of Evisort, Garett Monroe - Director, Information Management & Legal Professionals of Netflix , Shevonne Linton - Legal Fellow at Evisort
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