Making Your Move: From Legal to Legal Ops
Considering a Career Move to Legal Operations
In this post-pandemic era marked with global economic uncertainty, businesses are navigating new paths for growth. Consequently, corporate law departments feel more concerned about improving their function and operations to better support their business.
To do this, legal leaders have started hiring legal operations professionals—or building an entire legal operations team, depending on the company size—with the main goal of scaling their legal department and making it run like a business: efficiently, productively, and profitably.
As a result, the demand for legal operations has increased, and more professionals are looking to make a career move to legal operations in order to be a part of this relatively new but fast-growing industry.
As a Legal Operations Specialist at kdc/one in Canada, and former in-house counsel in my home country, I have insights into the field that I believe would be helpful to legal professionals who are considering starting a career in legal operations. Here’s a bit about my own journey to legal operations, and five steps that will make the transition to the field easier for other legal professionals.
My Path to Legal Operations
Before moving to Canada, I was working as in-house counsel in Morocco for more than five years. I found myself constantly feeling frustrated with the way I was performing my work and the way legal departments operated. But I was also totally ignoring how this could be done in a better and more efficient way.
After moving to Canada and working as a paralegal and assistant board secretary, I ended up in a legal operations role by pure chance. I was totally ignorant to legal operations’ existence as an entire industry; the only thing that caught my attention about the role were the tasks I was about to perform, and how they focused on helping the legal department operate in a more organized and efficient way. This is when I realized I had found my missing puzzle piece, and began sharing content about legal operations on my LinkedIn page—hoping that tips like the ones below would help lead others to this new and exciting field.
Tip #1: Identify the State of Legal Operations in Your Country/Region
The first thing to do if you are considering a new career in legal operations is to get more insights about the state of legal ops in your country or region.
Even though legal operations is a fast-emerging field, the maturity and advancement level of legal operations practiced may differ in different areas.
By identifying where your country or region is in terms of the legal operations industry’s development, you will be able to:
- Learn more about the trends, top practices, and available opportunities in your region
- Know how you can prepare and position yourself for a better move
The best way to do this is by reading survey and research reports on the current state, trends, and predictions related to the in-house legal industry and the legal department operations or management.
Tip #2: Start Learning About Legal Ops
Legal operations involves applying business operations techniques to the way legal departments operate (e.g. strategic planning, financial management, business intelligence, technology, project management, etc.).
This is why the next step to follow is to educate yourself on legal operations to become more familiar with its practices, standards, and terminology.
There are many international and local resources currently available that can help introduce you to the legal operations function, including articles, research, webinars, panel discussions, masterclasses, etc.
Also, depending on where you are located, you may find educational resources (e.g. courses, certifications) to help level up your legal operations knowledge and skills.
Tip #3: Join Legal Operations Communities
Because legal operations is an emerging field without many standardized practices and guidelines in place, most legal operations professionals that I’ve talked to agree that when they started their legal operations journey, they felt alone, overwhelmed, and lost in what they were performing.
This is why joining a legal operations community is important. Among many other benefits, it can:
- Expand your network
- Help you learn how legal operations is practiced by other professionals around the world
- Connect you with knowledge, experiences, wins, and lessons learned
- Showcase commonly-faced challenges
- Provide answers to frequently asked questions and solutions to frequently faced problems
Tip #4: Find a Mentor
One of the best things that you can do to help start your legal operations career is finding a mentor. You can do this independently, through your network, or through a legal operations mentorship program.
A mentor is a person who has been there before you, and can support you during the early days of your journey by:
- Sharing their experiences and challenges
- Giving you advice, tips, and tricks
- Providing assistance and guidance on how to tackle some projects or missions
The ideal would be to find a mentor with a similar profile, path, and/or background as yours so you can relate to their experiences, and they can relate to yours.
Tip #5: Determine Your Capabilities
As mentioned above, legal operations is a set of different business practice areas that are applied to legal departments’ operations to make them run more effectively and efficiently. This is why it is important for you to know in which legal operations practice area you can be the most comfortable, based on your strengths and weaknesses.
You can do this by running a SWOT analysis on your skills, comparing them to each legal operations practice area’s required skills. This will help you better position yourself with legal operations activities, and help you avoid applying for a legal operations job where the main tasks do not match your preferred legal operations competency.
More Helpful Resources for Making the Switch
Legal operations is a very interesting, game-changing, and challenging field. If you think you can be a great asset in this space, be sure you are prepared for the career move to legal operations so that the transition is easier and less overwhelming. Also, don’t overthink things too much—just take that first step.
If you have any questions regarding this topic, I invite you to reach out to me on LinkedIn or check some of my other content related to this specific topic:
- How I Moved from In-house Practice to Legal Ops
- Legal Operations Professional vs. Legal Professional
- How a Legal Professional Can Prepare to Switch to Legal Operations
- Avoid These 3 Mistakes When Starting your Legal Operations Job
- 4 Myths About the Requirements to Work in Legal Operations
- 40 Handy Resources for Legal Ops and In-house Legal Teams to Have in 2023