Corporate legal functions of the past were focused solely on providing the best legal advice possible. Today’s legal functions are required to manage greater complexity, and an increased pace of business and regulatory change. For legal functions operating at the forefront of transformation, new roles and skills are needed. Creating a legal operations capability within legal and adding a Legal Operations Officer can enable a more efficient and effective legal department.
What is the role of a Legal Operations Officer?
General Counsels are increasingly challenged to provide legal services in standardized, structured and data-driven way. To deal with the host of challenges, many General Counsels have established a legal operations function and hired a Legal Operations Officer, akin to a Chief Operating Officer for Legal. Per Accenture’s Legal Risk Survey, 78% of legal executives reported that they re-examined their legal operating model in the past year. 1 These changes are what prompt the hiring of an LOO, who would support strategic planning, financial planning, technology adoption, vendor management, and recruiting.
Is there need for a Legal Operations Officer?
Last year, over 58% of surveyed legal departments across all industries had a Legal Operations Officer, compared to 34% in 2018. 2 The first step in evaluating the feasibility of a Legal Operations Officer is to assess the complexity of the legal operations function. Is the business very large and complex and is legal in need of transformation changes across people, process, technology and information management (i.e., data and content)? If one answers yes to either of these questions, then there is a relatively greater need for such a specialized legal operations role.
A Legal Operations Officer can add value to your legal department by focusing on the following areas:
- Strategic Planning: To manage internal legal expenditures and greater demand for legal services, a Legal Operations Officer actively partners with the General Counsel and Legal leadership in long-term strategic planning. 3
- Financial Planning: A Legal Operations Officer tracks legal spending and identifies cost savings opportunities and then monitors investments in new tools and processes to evaluate returns.
- Technology Adoption: Legal functions are actively investing in enterprise legal management, document management, contract analytics, and Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) tools. 4 A Legal Operations Officer can help introduce innovative technology tools to optimize processes within the legal function.
- Vendor Management: A Legal Operations Officer can assist in negotiating fee agreements with legal tech vendors, conduct performance reviews of outside counsel, and implement standards and guidelines for selecting and managing vendors.
- Recruiting: As Legal functions are transforming their organizations to build a more resilient and digital legal, legal department talent requirements have shifted to adapt to a more digital and automated legal function including the addition of new skills such as data analytics and reporting. One critical role of Legal Operations Officer is to support training to upskill an attorney and legal staff’s technology proficiency. Legal talent retention continues to be a main focus of many General Counsels. By improving hiring processes, a Legal Operations Officer can positively impact the workplace environment.
How do you get started?
A legal department should consider creating a Legal Operations Officer role once it is large enough to have a proven need. Typically, Legal departments with 30+ staffers necessitate such a role. At this size, legal workflows start becoming administrative due to pressures of the business. As a legal department struggles with increasing demand, bringing in a Legal Operations Officer can signal a transformation – whether structural, technological, or otherwise.
Change is not easy for a tenured legal department within a large company. Thus, an important consideration in hiring a Legal Operations Officer is to ensure proper change management processes are in place to help employees adjust to the new organization structure. An executive champion such as the General Counsel can accelerate this process by setting the tone from the top for change and new ideas/people.
How Accenture can Help
Through working with a variety of Fortune 100 companies and law firms alike, Accenture understands what it takes to enact organizational change within the legal department. Accenture has the people and resources to support an end-to-end build out of a target state Legal operating model. From organizational assessments of current processes to strategic hiring, change management, and legal technology improvements, Accenture can support the holistic process to help enact lasting, positive change.
There is a great deal of pressure on legal departments to innovate and adapt to the needs of the businesses they serve. The legal department of the future will be quite different from what we see today – and many will have a Legal Operating Officer. With legal departments investing more in technology automating their baseline processes, and constantly changing how they interact with clients, Legal Operations Officers will be crucial to operationally managing change.
To find out more on the topic and how Accenture can support your needs, please contact the authors. To find out more on how compliance functions are addressing the “riskiest risks” please consult Accenture’s new Compliance Risk Study report.
Newsletter Contact Person: Lisa Bloomberg
The Authors would like to thank the contributions of Anastasia Barnett and Sol Kim for research and supporting data.
This blog is intended for general informational purposes only, does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances, may not reflect the most current developments, and is not intended to provide advice on specific circumstances. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this blog and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professional.
Accenture is a leading global professional services company, providing a broad range of services in strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations, with digital capabilities across all of these services. We combine unmatched experience and specialized capabilities across more than 40 industries – powered by the world’s largest network of Advanced Technology and Intelligent Operations centers. With 620,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries, Accenture brings continuous innovation to help clients improve their performance and create lasting value across their enterprises. Visit us at: https://www.accenture.com/us-en