The Deloitte 2021 State of Legal Operations Survey detailed how legal departments evaluate themselves against the 12 CLOC core competencies, with interesting results.
Let’s start at the beginning with Strategy. Survey respondents ranked Strategic Planning at 65%, indicating that they are more intentional in developing strategy but struggle with focus towards execution itself. Another interesting data point is that most survey respondents expressed concern over having the right people doing the right work. One less obvious result is that respondents ranked their organizations lower in Training & Development (56%) and Organization Optimization and Health (48%).
Something sounds off, right?
We are often told that a defined strategy is needed to achieve success in business. But is an articulated strategy enough? I would argue it is not. There must be shared understanding and alignment across the organization on the desired outcomes for that strategy while also ensuring that resources are enabled and inspired to succeed. This is where an empowered Legal Operations function comes into play.
For example, imagine XYZ Company manufactures and delivers tangible goods and then decides to develop a digital product. This product is not created in a factory but instead is a software-enabled service providing value to purchasers. C-Suite Executives receive marching orders to support and successfully bring this new product to market. If you are the CLO, you most likely have discussions with Commercial, IP, Litigation, Risk, and Compliance leadership. Those conversations would include requesting goal-oriented deliverables such as project plans regarding the delivery of legal services to mitigate the risk associated with this new digital product.
The Legal Operations function assists with project management support, development of processes, and procurement of technology and other legal services. Ensuring that all these functions are properly aligned, communicated, and executed each step of the way is critical to product success. The job of the CLO (and by extension Legal Operations itself) is to ensure alignment across the teams, provide mechanisms for escalation and issue resolution, develop success measures, and provide means to build the digital fluency of the team.
The final component listed above – ‘Digital Fluency’ – is worthy of further review. In 2022 and beyond, digital fluency will be a mandatory skill in all legal departments required to deliver effective and efficient legal services to the organizations they support. The CLO and Legal Operations must provide vehicles for legal department resources to further develop in this area.
Digital Fluency includes:
- Effective collaboration and communication with and between remote and hybrid teams.
- The ability to extract and distill data from various systems and manual trackers (e-billing, CLM, workflow, Excel spreadsheets) to enable business decisions and related legal advice.
- Leveraging data to facilitate conversations to evaluate and understand its meaning. For example, you observe an increase in spending with a particular firm for patent prosecution matters, or your CLM is showing an increase of 50% in NDA requests. Speaking with resources in both legal and the business to understand what is driving those numbers provides a holistic view of what is occurring in the environment and informs decisions on legal spend and resources.
- Develop the art of storytelling to bring life to the data and inspire the desired action.
- Build business cases (Yes, Legal has to do this too!) that articulate the complete picture of the need and benefits to the proposed change. This includes identifying impact (positive and negative) to people, processes, and technology.
- Adapt to and leverage various methods of communication: email, memos, instant messaging applications, text, video, podcasts, and more. Understand the applicability and functionality of each to use them appropriately. For example, writing a memo is very different from how you communicate in a Slack or Teams Channel. Both have a specific time and place.
- Embrace technology as an extension of the legal team that enhances legal acumen, facilitates spotting trends and risks, and offers greater transparency.
- Provide and seek real-time informal feedback and touchpoints to create connectivity and understanding.
- STOP WORKING IN A SILO! (This may be one of the author’s pet peeves.) Speak to, partner with, and learn from colleagues in and outside the company. Leverage your network and the experience of others in your industry and others to broaden your perspective. You would be surprised what innovative solutions come from a diversity of thought.
In the example of XYZ Company, shifting from manufacturing to digital is a transformational change requiring that company resources, including Legal, move accordingly. Whether you are a small legal department of two or a large multi-national department of hundreds, the requirements are the same, but the scope and scale differ. Mitigating risk and providing guidance on laws and regulations are core to what a legal department brings to an organization, but in a complex digital world, legal advice has increased in importance. A solid legal operations framework that scales with every changing demand of the environment is no longer a luxury but a requirement to ensure success.
About the Author
Elizabeth Lugones, Legal Operations Senior Advisor, UpLevel Ops
Elizabeth Lugones has more than 20 years of extensive legal operations experience building and managing LegalOps teams across a wide range of industries in both public and private companies. Prior to joining UpLevel, Liz served as the Senior Director of Legal Operations at WeWork and was Director of Legal Operations at various companies including UnitedLex, DXC Technology, Becton Dickinson, and MetLife. She is based in Westfield, NJ, and holds a BA in Political Science and Journalism from Rutgers University. Liz is also certified in Lean Six Sigma and is a fluent Spanish speaker.