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Takeaways from CLOC: legal operations as new competence for general counsel

Jeffrey Wolff
May 3, 2018 12:01:04 AM

We've said before that understanding of technology is increasingly becoming an important skill for the modern General Counsel. Last week we were at the annual conference of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) in Las Vegas where the CLOC Legal Operations Maturity Model was presented. We learned about the evolving corporate function called Legal Operations, which is a function that helps the General Council deal with the ever increasing breadth and complexity of his or her role.

Legal Operations: everything except the law

Legal Operations is a multidisciplinary department, typically reporting into the General Council, that is charged with optimizing legal services within an organization. Increasingly the Legal Operations portfolio is expanding to include compliancy, security and other risk-related areas. As such, the Legal Operations team deals with a broad array of topics within a firm or legal department and, as a result, less-and-less with the details of the legality. The Legal Operations team supervises budgets, data management, technology, human resources and many other areas. 

A starting Legal Operations department will mainly focus on financial management, managing traditional suppliers such as law firms and will provide the most basic technological support, such as assistance with workplaces and communications.

The more advanced Legal Operations team will also focus on offering alternative services, redesigning internal processes to achieve greater efficiency (like contract management) and the use of data analysis to discover bottlenecks in legal processes.

A mature Legal Operations department will also actively engage in:

Clearly, the ability to effectively use technology is an essential competence for the most Legal Operations departments.

Support from an effective Legal Operations team is absolutely vital to the success of a General Counsel. Gone are the distracting worries of dealing with the operational details of budgets, data, technology and implementation of new tools. It is no wonder the number of people working in Legal Operations is growing steadily. Also not surprising is the steady increase of the use of technology in the legal sector. Most organizations already use automated systems for basic tasks such as contract management and corporate housekeeping.

Technology can do more

Nevertheless, there are many manual rote tasks that can benefit from automation. These are all time consuming and, more often than not, costly when they are outsourced to external service providers. Think about pre-selection of data in investigations, requests from supervisors or lawsuits. And what about gathering relevant data and identifying problems when compiling a data room for refinancing, takeovers or other M&A-activities? All these activities can be automated using modern AI-technology.

Another example is, in the context of the upcoming GDPR, avoiding your team from manually having to anonymize or pseudonymize data when information needs to be transferred to third parties. Technology can do that much better.

It’s possible that your organization does not yet enjoy the benefits of its own Legal Operations specialist. Fortunately, there are competences that every legal professional can familiarize himself with in the meantime. The use of intelligent technology to make your department's legal services smarter, better, more effective and cost-effective is the inevitable way forward. And for that, you do not have to wait for a Legal Operations function to be established.

If you want to know more about how you can use technology to optimize the processes in your legal department, please contact us. Do you want to experience ZyLAB's technology for free? Sign up for a free test account.


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