Although not always referred to as “legal operations,” the industry has roots dating back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. As a profession, legal operations is relatively new but evolved from legal support or administrative roles.
In recent years, legal operations have focused on process management and emerged as a trusted advisor for highly complex legal and business issues—from implementing a valuable technology stack for operational excellence to ensuring the legal department is strategically using outside counsel with a strong emphasis on cost control.
The legal operations function, while not new, is in its infancy stage and will see tremendous growth in companies of all sizes over the next decade. As it continues to evolve, These are five industry trends that we see accelerating value for legal operations in organizations.
Legal Tech Stack Growth
Technology has long been a catalyst to streamline operations and drive efficiencies throughout the enterprise. From contract management to e-Billing and spend management to e-Discovery, today there are numerous solutions to add to a legal team’s tech stack. These technologies will continue to drive efficiencies by removing administrative burden and friction from legal work completed by lawyers and paralegals while arming the legal department with data to inform decision making. By connecting these tools together, legal teams are able to drive cross-functional collaboration through streamlined processes and enhanced visibility.
Focus on Data and Transparency
Data and data analytics are an emerging focus as more systems track the work that is being done in the department, which will ultimately lead to machine learning, natural learning processing, and artificial intelligence. This provides other departments, like finance, with easy access to spend data and insights for better budgeting. By using more collaborative and innovative legal operations technology, organizations are finally engaging with legal electronically or through the same system. This collaborative approach saves countless hours for legal personnel to track down requests from other departments and provides even better data and visibility into matters, spend, vendors, etc.
Integrated Systems that are Configurable
As more efficient workflows are implemented, configurable, integrated systems will take the place of archaic data entry and time-consuming phone calls. These configurable systems push UI and UX design to levels that will meet legal department expectations. Integrated systems allow legal departments to easily share and receive data from departments they interface with on a daily basis and will result in collaboration and workflow tools that become more ubiquitous as the disadvantages of email and messaging systems as a means of “getting work done” continue to unfold. As these systems consolidate processes, there will be fewer vendors needed, thus creating long-term cost savings for organizations.
Increased Competition and Alternative Legal Service Providers
Fewer vendors and the desire for long-term cost savings will lead to a more competitive legal landscape that is focused on right-sourcing legal services. This, along with the rise of Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs) – to provide assistance with everything from document review to legal research and litigation support – will drive the need for legal technology to manage restructured pricing arrangements, providing legal teams with more predictability and control over their spending and budget.
A Rise in Alternative Fee Arrangements
Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs) allow lawyers to provide more affordable, accessible and transparent legal services. Most law firms have a general idea of how many hours are needed to complete certain tasks and may implement fixed rates for transactional engagements, like filing for a patent or work visa. These fixed-rate fee arrangements are easier to budget for and provide financial departments with more predictable costs than hourly billing. Although there is still some hesitation to put AFAs into place, emerging technologies are equipped to track and manage them.
The growth and opportunity in legal technology are defined by the need to allow lawyers to focus on their purview so they can protect and grow the company. Each new platform or feature is created with productivity in mind, and by removing burdens from legal departments and the departments and vendors they work with, legal teams can focus on being a strategically to the business.