Market Survey Provides Insight on Partnerships with Legal Operation Teams

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Legal operations has become a growing focus as organizations prioritize finding new ways to increase efficiencies within the legal department. Legal operations teams are tasked with several responsibilities including technology investment, metrics, legal spend management, strategic planning, compliance, and risk evaluation. To keep on the path of transformation, legal needs to take more of a business approach, which is why having a mature legal operations team should be a top priority for many organizations. But how do legal operations teams fit within organizations as a whole? Hyperion’s 2021 MarketView Report on Enterprise Legal Management provides some insight on this topic.

Findings

The Hyperion Research report contains valuable information about how the market views the role of legal operations teams. It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has presented unique hurdles as legal operations managers had to quickly change priorities and make unanticipated decisions about staffing, strategy, and vendor partnerships. Almost 60 percent of legal operations managers surveyed reported that technology investments were disrupted. This was an even split between decreasing and deferring investments in new legal technology. While some viewed this as a temporary roadblock, the majority of respondents believed their legal tech budgets would suffer long-term effects. Since an element of uncertainty will be present for the next few years, some long-term strategy goals will need to be reconfigured to account for flexibility. This could include pausing lower priority investments, exploring legal staffing partnerships, and increasing reliance on collaborative tools for remote work.

When looking past the pandemic and focusing on the journey legal operations has taken towards maturity, the report uncovered perceived weaknesses but with a clear path to bridge the gap between perception and the ultimate goal of legal becoming a transformational business partner. While it is true that legal operations teams have moved from the role of only advisory to one also rooted in leadership, many are still not viewing these teams as an equal partner. The report concluded that the market seems to view legal operations as a “work in progress”, with 41 percent of executives finding improved business operations but only 23 percent concluded that their legal operations teams have a well-developed strategy and vision. When surveying the business, 25 percent valued the law department and 21 percent reported that legal was more than just services to them. At face value, these percentages come as a surprise. But upon reviewing the operational metrics tracked by legal operations teams, it becomes clear that these sentiments do not mean legal operations teams do not deliver value. They are still on the path to becoming a transformational operational partner both internally and with outside vendors.

Breaking Down the Metrics

The report examined legal spend, process/efficiency, caseload/utilization, and diversity from a quantitative standpoint (ranked accordingly by which metrics were tracked the most). Qualitative performance captured value, outcome/results, comparative benchmarks, and quality. Taking a deeper dive into the quantitative and qualitative performance metrics, 13 percent of those surveyed did not track qualitative metrics at all and those that did made up a small fraction of only 33 percent or lower for each category. These figures are significant and speak volumes. Without having qualitative metrics, company executives do not have enough intelligence to aid with decisions on strategy. Put simply, legal operations teams and the business as a whole need to track things like outcomes and quality to have a firm grasp on what is working and what areas need more fine-tuned strategy or where to change investment priorities. When this becomes a larger focus, legal operations teams will be able to offer much more than tactical insight alone and better anticipate investment needs, even during uncertain times.

Simply, this all means that many organizations seem to be satisfied with how legal operations teams are improving business operations and strategic planning when there is more focus on delivering value to the entire enterprise rooted in consistency and quality data. This will help legal operations teams continue their path of evolution towards greater operational efficiency and be viewed as more of an equal partner. The report concluded:

“This change in mindset also requires a shift in approach, raising the importance of capturing attributes that matter most to the business, such as quality, value, and results. By adding qualitative metrics to quantitative measurements already in place, Legal Ops teams have the opportunity to enhance their operational framework and redefine service delivery to the business. Additionally, the newly collected qualitative data becomes a valuable component of the strategic planning process, providing benchmark data that can drive the development, execution, and evaluation of long-term plans.”

Legal operations teams should take this under advisement and start shifting their approach. Make a plan for how to account for the current and anticipated effects from the pandemic, and tailor investment decisions accordingly. Also, make long-term plans so new investments or partnerships that can drive value to the organization can be adopted and implemented quickly. Appropriate planning and tracking more qualitative metrics will undoubtedly propel legal operations teams into a more widely respected role within their organization and improve the overall strategy and vision components of operations.

To download the full Marketview report, click here.

The contents of this article are intended to convey general information only and not to provide legal advice or opinions.

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