Working cross-functionally: legal ops & engineering

Lauren Lee | September 12, 2018 | Articles

When looking at job descriptions for legal operations positions, many include at least one requirement along the lines of, “are collaborative, and enjoy working with teams such as engineering, marketing, and finance.” For example, companies like Wrangler and Couchbase, make it a point to call out the importance of working cross-functionally when looking to bring on or expand the legal operations function – and for good reason. Legal operations is not only responsible for making sure the legal department follows and complies with standard operating procedures, but that each department within the company does so as well.

Today’s blog post will be the fourth and final installment on how legal ops can work cross-functionally with engineering. If you missed our previous posts, be sure to check out Part 1: Legal Ops and Sales, Part 2: Legal Ops and IT, and Part 3: Legal Ops and Finance.

Driving Initiatives Forward

Legal operations is essential to any business that innovates, acting as the interface between the legal experts and the engineering experts. Instead of being seen as a bottleneck, the best legal operations professionals will serve as an additional source of information and extra layer of protection for engineering as they work towards creating new and improved products.

Understanding the Business

Because legal operations interfaces with so many departments within the business, they have an understanding of what each department’s goals are, as well as the goals of the greater organization. This helps ensure that they are able to effectively guide each team, in this case engineering, towards high priority and business-focused milestones without introducing additional risk. Exceptional legal operations professionals will thrive in a tech-centered, developer-focused environments, and will be adept at understanding technical and product details.

One example of legal operations applying their wide-range of knowledge is in the patent filing process. When legal operations works closely with engineering early in the process of creating a new innovation, they can provide information on the market where the product will be offered, what the competition is doing, and any potential legal requirements that might need to be met. Legal operations will simultaneously work with members of their legal team, such as a patent attorney, to help draft the proper paperwork, file for the correct patent, review related documents, and ensure all of this happens within the engineering’s schedule.

Legal operations can also help engineering with:

  • Licensing – Review terms within a license to ensure they meet the desired goals for each party
  • Research & Development – Manage proprietary thought leadership, handling the trademark or copyright process
  • Contract Management – Streamline any contract management management processes to make sure the right stakeholders are involved at the right time

With the right legal tech platform, engineering (and other business units) can easily request legal work from the legal team. See for yourself how easily everyone gains visibility into what’s going on during complex legal processes:

Close Alignment with Engineering Mitigates Risk

By bringing expertise on ethical considerations and legal precedent into conversations with engineering, legal operations will have a better understanding of what’s coming from an innovation and technology standpoint. This creates a closer working relationship, and helps legal operations develop a comprehensive Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio, efficiently manage patents and trademarks, and mitigate risk.

To learn more about the legal operations role, growing and expanding your legal ops team, and best practices for modernizing and optimizing outdated processes, download your copy of our popular whitepaper: Legal Operations 101: A Blueprint for Modern Legal Departments.

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