Michael Grupp, CEO and Founder of BRYTER, outlines why it’s legal ops’ job to make the business fall in love with legal — and how to do so.
We all know what legal ops is by now. There is sales ops, there is marketing ops, so of course, we deserve our own ops team, too. Legal ops is the engine that modernizes the legal department – with the right support, processes, and tech. They get praise from their colleagues for managing projects, taking care of the budget, managing hiring processes, securing sophisticated tech, and more.
And rightly so.
But what is their purpose? What is the tangible, emotional reason for pushing the needle in this often-old-fashioned game?
Having seen legal operations around the world being really impactful, I have a proposition: Legal ops make colleagues outside of the legal department fall in love with legal. Yes, love! Why? Stay with me here.
People camp outside an Apple store, not because they get something for free – but because they are fans, not just customers. CEOs may love their sales teams. The sales teams may love their SDRs. But when was the last time you heard a sales manager say, “I can’t wait to meet with the legal department on this!” Never, right?
Folks need us, but do they love us? Sure, we are often seen as the bottleneck preventing the business from getting things done quickly, but that is for a good reason. Review takes time. Decisions take research. Drafting is complex.
So how do we make legal more loveable?
Effective legal operations managers help the legal team to catch up to the speed of the business and deliver guidance more efficiently — how, when, and where it’s needed — delighting internal clients.
In that way, legal operations is the Cupid of the legal department, helping the entire legal team to feel the love from the rest of the business. And while love is not necessarily a KPI that any legal ops managers are concerned with, a better reputation with the business leads to tangible benefits like better engagement with the legal department, better alignment with business priorities, and therefore reduced legal risk for all involved.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at how legal operations can help the legal department feel the love from the rest of the business.
What is legal operations to general counsel?
Let’s define the relationship between legal ops and general counsel. Legal operations has a job to improve the legal department from within, and then improve its partnership with other departments across the business.
Traditionally, general counsel has worked as a consultant, advising the CEO and top management on all strategic matters. But the role of the modern GC has expanded.
Today, general counsel run big units, which are tasked with servicing the entire business. They now have a two-fold role: To continue being a strategic partner and to start being an efficient legal service center. And more importantly – make these two parts work in sync.
This is no easy task and in fact, only 52% of general counsel say that their day-to-day department work is aligned with the broader business strategy (EY Law Survey 2021). And the rest are caught up in servicing tasks (2022 In-House Legal Technology and Automation Report by the Lawyer and BRYTER).
So how can these two parts of GC’s role be aligned and how can legal ops help? The answer is in 2 of the CLOC Core 12 functions of legal ops: Technology and Service Delivery Models.
Scaling legal services with technology
Just like any other business area in the organization, legal needs to scale — to deliver more guidance to more business users, without sacrificing the quality of that guidance.
In the context of legal, and especially this new servicing nature of in-house counsel, there are tasks such as NDAs, employment contracts, and policy questions that will grow as the company grows. These are business-essential, but without legal ops, these tasks need to be done one by one. But as the volume grows, the one-by-one approach becomes inefficient and laborious.
So, the role of legal ops is to bring in modern technology and digital approaches — like legal workflow automation — and to aid in the adoption of those approaches within legal. That way, they help the department to scale successfully and smoothly — and internal clients get their requests answered more quickly, and in a scalable, affordable, and low-risk way.
When legal works quickly, the rest of the business notices — because everyone works more quickly. Removing legal as a bottleneck to other business workflows is one of the best ways legal ops can improve the reputation of the department across the business.
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Improving service delivery models by going digital
Making legal services faster will surely lead to the department being more well-liked by others. But to go from like to love, you must improve how those services are delivered.
Let’s look at the current service delivery experience for most legal teams, from the perspective of a user in a different department:
- The user realizes there is a legal issue at play on their own (this is a lucky situation).
- The user contacts someone in the legal department.
- They might have contacted the wrong person, so they are manually routed to the right specialist on the legal team.
- The user is expecting a clear, quick answer, but often gets “It depends…” and so begins the longest step, the back and forth of clarifying questions and research.
- Finally, after days or even weeks, the user is provided with an answer and can proceed with their project.
Of course, this process is motivated by diligence and responsibility on the part of the legal team. There is rarely a quick and clear answer to a legal question, but there are ways to scale knowledge so that similar, repetitive issues don’t have to be solved on a case-by-case basis.
Now let’s look at a digitized service delivery experience, with legal workflow automation in play:
- The user takes an action on a native environment – like Salesforce, MS Teams, or SharePoint — that triggers an automated notification that a legal issue may be at play.
- A legal intake tool pops up in that same environment, where the user is asked clarifying questions based on conditional logic pre-defined by the legal team.
- Depending on the nature of the request, as these questions are answered, a risk score is automatically calculated, a contract is generated, or guidance is provided.
- In cases where manual intervention is needed, the case is escalated and delivered directly to the right legal expert, with all the contextual information needed to proceed.
- The entire interaction is automatically documented and stored in a way that can be easily accessed by the legal team.
A modern legal service delivery model provides guidance where internal clients want it (their current native environments, including mobile devices), when they want it (on-demand), and how they want it (digitally).
The love starts from within legal
Sourcing love for the legal team is simple when it’s approached in the right way. It’s about giving the business what they need quickly, easily, and without tons of back-and-forth.
When legal teams are relieved of manual work and repetitive tasks, and equipped with the right tools, they’re able to do the strategic work they went to law school for. They’re happier and empowered to be more of a strategic partner to their colleagues in other departments, rather than a barrier to fast wins.
This piece was originally published on the CLOC blog. It has been syndicated here with permission.