Legal Operations: The Future Of The Legal Industry?

Legal Operations: The Future Of The Legal Industry?

Despite the roadblocks to productivity and efficiency, many lawyers continue to engage in business processes outside the scope of legal practice, such as overseeing third-party vendors, strategising change management, and navigating data management. Not only does it increase the time burden on lawyers, but it also costs more than it should at their average hourly rate.

The global pandemic has forced industry leaders to rethink the strategies that dictate how they work. The technology infusion the world witnessed in the past 18 months has been unprecedented, and even the ever-resistant legal field quickly adopted technological disruption in the name of business continuity.

The business of law depends on the field of legal operations, which is a legal industry vertical that houses competencies such as financial, data, and security management to promote efficiency at the law firm level.

Legal operation competencies

The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) is one of the leading industry groups working to increase efficiencies for in-house legal so it can keep pace with modern business. CLOC has a helpful framework of 12 competencies, ranging from foundational through advanced and mature levels, to help legal operations professionals understand legal operations. According to CLOC, the core competencies include:

  • Financial management 
  • Vendor management 
  • Cross-functional alignment 
  • Technology and process support 
  • Service delivery and alternative support models 
  • Organisational design, support, management 
  • Communications 
  • Data analytics 
  • Litigation support and IP management 
  • Knowledge management 
  • Information governance and records management
  • Strategic planning

Legal operations acceptance

According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Legal and Compliance, the level of digital acceptance for most law firms is strikingly low. Gartner, a leading IT research and advisory company, however, boils it down to identify three pivotal opportunities for senior in-house counsel who are eager to rectify the situation: establishing (or strengthening) foundational systems of record, enabling core workflows with digital investments (beyond sending emails or Excel spreadsheets), and transitioning largely analog risk management methodologies to digital. “As a result of acute workload pressures through the pandemic, technology solutions appear more attractive than ever for over-burdened legal and compliance teams,” says Zack Hutto, director, advisory in the Gartner Legal & Compliance Practice, adding that lagging tech adoption means legal and compliance should walk before they try running. 

“Teams should first establish foundational systems of record and then invest in solutions to facilitate key workflows before exploring more sophisticated opportunities like digitally-enabled risk management,” Hutto says. “Significant hype tends to follow more sophisticated technology innovation – like AI – as well. As a result, many legal leaders get overwhelmed by technology opportunities.”

A Legal Tech News article posits that technology alone isn’t the answer to make things better, and it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The author proposes three areas on which legal operations professionals should focus to optimally use technology to push legal forward.

  • Adoption 

Because the legal world has traditionally stuck to a convention, technology adoption can seem simply herculean. To increase adoption, legal operation professionals should consider two aspects: a) technology should make things marginally easier than the conventional way does, and b) because legal professionals are often time-bound, implementations requiring extensive training usually will flop. Hence, focusing on intuitiveness is generally the smoothest route to adoption.

  • Process Improvement

Technology supports processes, and legal operations professionals can draw on this when implementing technology to new processes to reap maximum benefits.

  • Community 

Legal operation professionals realised the power of community and how to leverage it to transform the legal world. And it is by sharing and solving problems that one can create new standards and best practices. Change in legal will come from the power of the community.

Benefits of strong legal operations 

KPMG is one of its reports on the future of legal function predicted the future of Legal Function in 2025 emphasised the growth of non-lawyers in the legal field supporting the technology, the traditional legal function hierarchy will likely morph into a more agile and cost-effective structure. The introduction of chatbots, data analysis, and automated operations requires the inclusion of personnel from tech backgrounds.

The way forward?

Demand for legal operations professionals will continue to rise as adaptability to new technology is currently a bottleneck for the existing law firm fraternity. Surely, with more intuitive tech and process improvements emerging, law firms will reap real benefits and provide even more value to their clients through the application of their expertise and legal technology innovation?

Also read top viewed Ai Legal article: The Role of AI in Legal Research.

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