Ten years ago, legal operations were two unrelated words. I remember attending many an ACC conference where the discussion for legal departments centered on how to get a seat at the table with other business units within their company. Fast forward a decade and I would argue that most GC have succeeded in getting a seat at the table. With higher scrutiny on executives, heightened privacy requirements, and the ever present risk of cyber attacks, legal teams are now in regular conversations with executives and other departments. Now that they are part of that conversation, there is a different lens by which GCs are looking at those legal departments – the same lens shared by other business units. What I mean is that GCs are now focusing on ROI, metrics, and strategic planning as part of their department rather than solely focusing on risk management. Thus, the legal operations field is born.
Over the last five years, this legal operations field has really blossomed and has continued to pick up steam. The field really started as a seed – a couple of legal departments had people who were seen as “chiefs of staff” to the GC and were running the business operations of legal: vendor management, staffing, technology, etc. As the field grew in more companies, those early pioneers formed an organization to formalize this space: CLOC (Corporate Legal Operations Consortium). CLOC’s mission is to help legal operations professionals, and others, optimize legal service delivery models needed to support legal departments. Although CLOC started out small, with only 200 members in 2016, it has grown in both membership and as an institute through the years by expanding from a domestic institute to a global one in 2018. In addition, in response to growing demand, CLOC launched a Law Firm Community in July 2019 to bridge the gap between in-house legal ops professionals and their law firm counterparts. Today, CLOC has over 2,200 members and its last US conference drew over 2,300, a 360% increase from 3 years prior. The Association of Corporate Counsel has also devoted some attention to this space forming a committee to create relevant materials and where interested members can learn from each other. A quick search of LinkedIn jobs for “legal operations” in the United States yields over 1,200 results with some of the top postings being Head of Legal Operations at Fortune 500 companies as well as legal operations specialists and managers at several large corporations across the US. Although we are still in the forming stages of this function, the growth is indisputable and legal operations will play an instrumental role in the next generation of legal departments.
So what does this newer field manage day to day? The CLOC competencies table is really informative and has twelve areas that legal operations covers. They range from vendor management to data analytics. As a lawyer/GC turned business executive, many of these CLOC items are things I have had to put into practice in both my legal department as well as my operational teams. In doing so, I have learned a lot and experienced some wins (and opportunities for improvement). I have also met with, and interviewed almost a dozen colleagues to learn about their experiences in the legal operations competencies. I am sharing these learnings with you so that as you think about developing this area in your law department or as you embark on your legal operations career, you have a couple of points of reference. Over the next series of blog posts, I will dive deeper into the various legal operations competencies and share my experiences as well as what I have learned from others.
As I go, I would love to hear your tips, tricks, and software suggestions surrounding any of the CLOC areas. Please feel free send me a direct note at firstname.lastname@example.org.