The legal operations role is here to stay

Lauren Lee | July 20, 2017 | Articles

As a matter management, legal spend, and e-Billing solution designed for in-house legal teams, we work directly with a variety of different sized corporate legal departments. One role within the legal department we’ve seen more frequently is the Legal Operations Manager.

Isn’t a legal department operations manager just another in-house legal professional? At SimpleLegal, we’d have to argue that it’s much more than a name change. Over the years, we’ve seen the positive impact that legal operations professionals have on the legal department and the organization as a whole, and it’s clear that the legal operations role is here to stay.

Where and Why it Started

In the early 1990’s, General Electric, Bank of America, and Prudential were part of a handful of companies that began hiring Legal Operations Managers to support their General Counsel and help corporate legal departments build efficiency and process. These companies were not only large entities that had the budget to expand their legal departments, they were viewed to be on the “cutting edge” of the legal industry.

Fast forward to today, and the ACC estimates that at least a third of GCs at Fortune 500 companies have added the role. We strongly believe that number will continue to rise, and that the legal operations function will be added to all legal departments, regardless of size.

Reason for Growth

Someone in a legal operations role is typically responsible for day-to-day operational, financial, and reporting operations across the department. With the advancement in technology, there is additional importance put on driving efficiencies and cost reduction. Oftentimes, legal operations managers are responsible for millions (sometimes billions) of dollars in legal spend budget, and also their department’s spending habits and how they’re tracked. If there isn’t someone paying attention to this, things can get out of hand quickly (inaccurate accruals numbers for finance, missed opportunities for cost savings, etc.).

Mary O’Carroll, Google’s Head of Legal Operations describes the expansion of her position: “I started [by] looking at our spend on outside counsel and financial management. But now the role covers knowledge management and IT, systems, tools and internal process improvement, and internal consulting.”

The Rise of Legal Operations Support Systems

For those currently in a legal ops role, or for those looking to learn more, there are a myriad of resources popping up.

One of our favorites is the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC). Their goal is to provide an unrivaled professional network and invaluable resources for the corporate legal ecosystem. Be sure to follow them on LinkedIn for future updates, become a member, and see if there is a regional group in your area!

Another group to look into is ACC Legal Operations, which is part of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). They provide resources and opportunities for legal operations professionals to collaborate. Membership comes with a variety of benefits including career resources, access to their members-only forum, and more.

To learn more about how SimpleLegal is helping corporate legal departments better track and manage their outside legal spend, matters, and vendors, schedule a demo and see our legal operations platform in action.

Legal Ops