Building a Mature Legal Ops – Expert Advice From CLOC

This past week we attended CLOC, the event thrown in Vegas by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium specifically for Legal Ops. A whirlwind, the most pressing takeaway: change is hard. Here’s what seasoned executives had to say at CLOC to tackle change and build a mature Legal ops process.

Sitting in a room filled with a mix of newly forming and tenured legal ops teams, two things were clear. One, everyone wants to know how they’re doing in comparison to their peers, searching for the best way to benchmark their organizations. And two, everyone is looking for “the way” to build a successful legal ops team, one that streamlines processes and supports the business, in three key areas: efficiency, growth, and scalability. Over the four content-packed days that spanned CLOC, here’s what was gleaned to help answer those questions.

Benchmarking Legal Ops
How to benchmark a business function? By the maturity of the program.

Benchmarking, the activity of ranking yourself against your peers to evaluate success or failure, and is a great way to see not only how you stack up to other teams. Even more valuable is the ability to uncover inefficiencies or other opportunities for improvement. According to the VP of LSS (Legal Strategic Services) at Liberty Mutual, who led the session titled Building a Mature Legal Ops Function, the key areas to focus on for benchmarking are :

  • Culture
  • People
  • Process
  • Technology

Within those four areas are eleven specific things to rank for a baseline—including things such as communication, project management, strategic planning. Aside from these, four more warrant mention:

  • eDiscovery
  • Compliance
  • Contract Management
  • Change Management

These four alternate areas fall under process and technology, but are core to the legal ops function.

How to build a mature Legal Ops business function
A mature legal ops function can support the business in big ways. From a process standpoint, standardizing contract processes will move daily functions from tactical to strategic, increase efficiency and optimize your processes, deliver the reporting and value you need from your contracts to prove ROI, and move legal to a business function and cost-savings center. Well worth the effort.

Having a firm understanding of where your processes, technology, etc. are by using a benchmarking tool like the maturity model to be released next week, is the first step. Next, it’s time to start talking to people, inside and outside the legal team.

Why? These conversations serve two functions: 1) they will uncover process breaks and opportunity for improvements, and 2) they build the relationships with other business functions that will reframe the perception of legal (and legal ops) to one of enabler and partner. What to ask in these conversations? Use open-ended questions. The examples the VP of LSS at Liberty Mutual gave at the conference were, “How can I help?” “How can my team help?” Great door openers—disarming and inviting.

Next, conversations complete, notes taken, and information in hand, it’s time to start asking yourself and your team some questions:

  • What do you focus on first? Priorities?
  • Who are your stakeholders?
  • Is anyone talking about how effective your team is?
  • Who is your biggest detractor? Your biggest champion?

Then get started. From what you’ve gleaned through this process you’ll know what talent can be moved or promoted, and what talent you’ll need to source. You’ll understand communication issues that exist and how to market internally to improve collaboration and internal relationships. Process inefficiencies will become blaring and, after ranking them by priority level, can be tackled in the order that makes the most sense—biggest bleeds first. With a roadmap of existing processes, bottlenecks and opportunities for improved collaboration can be reassessed and an understanding of what technology solutions are needed and where they fit.

Addressing the technology piece of this puzzle will require a fair amount of evaluation. With so many different solutions out there, map out which technologies you need most, what would be worthwhile to replace if it can be done easier with one solution than with several, and where you would ideally integrate the technology to produce the most value and streamlined process. Keys for evaluating technology:

  • Look for simplicity
  • Ask how much training is required
  • Ask if it integrates with existing systems

Depending on how complicated your processes, contracts, etc., you’ll want to ask a lot more. An evaluation checklist like this one for CLM platforms can be key to making this process easy for you.

Ok, now for some challenges.
Change management can be hard. To ensure success, find low risk projects to complete first that drive impact and get some quick wins under your belt. Continue the conversations started in discovery to keep building relationships and gain buy-in. Establish some cross-functional teams from multiple practice areas to break down silos and increase morale—these cross-functional teams will also deliver efficiency gains for the department and overall organization.

Hurdle statements and questions:

  • It’s always been done this way.
  • Will general counsel be ok with this?
  • What if this fails?

The benefits outweigh the cons. Processes won’t change if you don’t change them. People are averse to change, and change management itself is complicated. Get buy in. Pick top-performers and get them involved. Create a role that can report to the GC—it will help further their career and address hierarchical issues. Help people understand that if things don’t change, business can’t move forward.

The data in your contracts, once accessible, can be the driver of cost savings and the business. With the right platform you can do a few key things: automate entire contract processes across all departments to deliver visibility, efficiency, and flawless compliance; capture more revenue from new business with accelerated negotiation and e-signature and existing business from deadline and renewal alerts to drive sustainable growth and scalability; and help you prove the ROI of the words in your contracts to your C-suite. To find out more, request a demo.