It’s clear to everyone involved in the in-house legal industry that legal operations roles are on the rise. We raised this trend with Felicia Chang, Head of Legal Operations at Zenefits, to get her take on why legal operations is proving an attractive role for both new and experienced professionals.
1. It’s a diverse, enjoyable role.
As companies grow and the roles within them become more specific, legal operations presents professionals with an opportunity to continue to work on various aspects of the business, all in one place.
F: “Legal operations specialists implement tools and applications that free up in-house attorney's time so they can stay focused working on what they do best, whether it's negotiating the next big strategic partnership, advising our product team or focusing on general corporate governance matters, implementing tools and applications should be left up to the legal operations team. I would tell anyone looking to work in a hyper-growth in-house legal department to expect the unexpected every single day. It's a lot of fun if you like and can navigate the uncertainty.”
2. It’s a great role for those who love legal, but aren’t lawyers.
The law is a fascinating field to work in. Until recently, it required a law degree before you could get anywhere near the legal department at a company. Not anymore.
F: “Legal operations gives people like me, who like the legal field, but aren’t lawyers, an opportunity to play a critical role in developing, supporting and building the foundations of a highly efficient and world-class in-house legal department.”
3. You’re the one building the legal team structure.
As companies grow, in-house legal teams are often asked to do more with less. Developing a robust legal operations team provides the tools and applications that in-house legal teams need.
F: “We enable in-house lawyers to be more efficient. In a time where in-house departments are becoming more and more interested in cost savings, the legal operations role is undoubtedly becoming more popular. My interests lie in legal and legal project management, so roles in legal operations give you the chance to guide the development of legal within your company.”
4. You get to solve crucial challenges directly related to the success of the business.
Working in legal operations, you straddle the in-house and outside counsel teams, helping to facilitate effective relationships while managing expectations on both sides. eBilling software like SimpleLegal is really helpful to keep it all organized.
F: “One of my biggest challenges is getting all of our legal vendors up to speed with the way our business works. Things like identifying how we want to ingest finance information such as accruals, forecasting and invoicing, and then training the client to fit our needs and adhere to our billing guidelines. eBilling software SimpleLegal is really helpful in keeping it all organized, and other services like Logikcull are popping up to help automate many of the legal processes for our team.”
5. You can shape what the industry will become.
Legal operations is by and large a new industry, forged out of the need for more efficient and organized in-house teams. Only recently have we seen the emergence of organizations like the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and best practices appear. According to Felicia, the way we define legal operations is changing every day.
F: “I believe we’ll see companies become more creative in how legal operations is defined in terms of function, specific responsibilities and what initiatives fall within this role. I'm interested to see how law firms will adjust and learn from the growing in-house legal operations function in the next couple years.”