legal operations

7 Tips for Tackling the First 100 Days as a Legal Operations Leader

While we’ve heard lots of talk about the “first 100 days” on the campaign trail, this timeframe can be equally as influential for legal operations leaders. I’ve personally used the 100-day standard for years with our hires, and, although it’s not the only measure of success, it’s certainly a decisive period.

If you’re new to your legal operations role, expect to progress into a legal operations role in the future, or are already in a legal operations role, but your organization has recently undergone change (in senior management, ownership or organizational structure), it’s important to be prepared to lay the groundwork and set the tone in your first 100 days – particularly in the current challenging environment.

Here are seven quick tips for starting – and finishing – your first 100 days on solid footing.

  1. Take an assessment. While you may have gotten a feel for the position during your interview or previous experience with the organization, it’s important to start your 100 days with eyes wide open. Begin by getting a lay of the land. What is the organizational culture like? Where do pain points exist? How mature is the legal department? Understanding the fundamentals like operations capability and organizational priorities will provide a valuable perspective on how to succeed in your new role.
  1. Get to know everyone. From the general counsel to administrative assistants, employees are often your best resource during the first 100 days, especially those serving in administrative capacities. Get to know all of the stakeholders, including finance, sales, IT and procurement, as these relationships will form the foundation for the success of the legal department. Aligning only with the General Counsel will cost you in the long run if a base of departmental support isn’t built in the process.
  1. Solicit feedback. As you’re getting to know everyone, gather as much information as possible. Welcome feedback with a friendly and unbiased attitude. Ask open-ended questions. I’ve seen a lot of legal operations leaders use surveys or questionnaires to gauge the level of service from the legal department.
  1. Make a plan. Use all of the information you’ve gathered to understand the landscape and establish a baseline. From there, you can create a blueprint for what you hope to accomplish in your first 100 days. Your plan should reflect the needs of the organization that you’ve identified. Be sure to take the budget into account as you consider areas of investment, like technology. Map out immediate needs as well as long-term priorities, and be prepared to rework your plan over time.
  1. Hold off on new hires. Your first 100 days isn’t the time to make hiring decisions or bring in new team members. Focus on getting to know the resources you have.
  1. Define the messaging around your role. I see a lot of legal operations leaders struggle with messaging their new role, their plan and their intentions. But it’s incredibly important that you consider how others will perceive you from the onset. For instance, many corporate legal department members may perceive their legal operations leader as a substitute for tech support. Communicating your priorities and setting expectations will set you up for success.
  2. Give yourself a break. Starting a new position can be very stressful. Legal operations leaders often feel responsible for fixing everything and delivering amazing results overnight. Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish, and don’t forget to pace yourself.

The bottom line

You don’t have to be the president for the first 100 days to matter. This standard is an increasingly important benchmark in the corporate world. If you find yourself embarking on what feels like a daunting first 100 days as a legal operations leader, incorporate some of these tips into your toolbox and you’re more likely to set the tone for long-term success.

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