Understanding Legal Operations

Learn more about the growing field of legal operations, and how legal ops professionals help in-house legal teams maximize their potential.

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Legal operations, or “legal ops” for short, refers to the management of the business and administrative aspects of a legal department or law firm.
Operations roles in any business refer to the set of activities that are designed to help a company run smoothly and efficiently. In the case of legal departments, operations roles are focused on improving the operations of in-house legal, also known as in-house counsel, a department with a title hierarchy that starts with a legal intern and goes up to the general counsel or chief legal officer.

Why Legal Ops?

The field of legal ops has become increasingly important as legal departments strive to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Over the last few years, in-house legal has been under pressure to do more with less. In today’s business environment, legal departments must do more than provide high-quality legal services, they also need to predict and control costs as well as manage vendor relationships, all of which legal ops support.

Who Supports Legal Ops?

Because the legal ops field is relatively new, not everyone recognizes it’s importance. Yet. But there are some weighty organizations that are heavily in favor of the adoption of legal ops by internal legal departments.

For example, The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) is a global organization that promotes the advancement of legal operations. ACC Legal Operations is another organization that focuses on providing resources and training for legal operations professionals.

The legal ops community is also incredibly supportive of new legal ops pros, with individuals and organizations (like Brightflag) offering mentorship and resources such as blogs, podcasts, ebooks, compensation surveys, and more.

What Does Legal Ops Do?

In-house legal department structure titles can vary depending on the size and complexity of the organization.

Operations department responsibilities can include technology management, financial management, process improvement, project management, and facilitating outside counsel relationships.

Legal ops professionals are responsible for a wide range of tasks, including:

Technology: Legal operations professionals are responsible for selecting and implementing legal technology tools that can help improve efficiency and reduce costs. This can include everything from document management systems to legal spend management platforms like Brightflag.

Finance and Budgeting: Legal operations professionals are responsible for managing the financial aspects of a legal department or law firm. This includes developing budgets, tracking expenses, and identifying opportunities to reduce costs.

Process Improvement: Legal ops professionals are often involved in process improvement initiatives. They work to identify inefficiencies in legal processes and develop strategies to streamline workflows and reduce costs.

Project Management: Legal ops professionals may be involved in managing legal projects from start to finish. This can involve everything from scoping projects to developing timelines, allocating resources, and tracking progress.

Outside Counsel Management: Legal ops professionals play a key role in ensuring that external vendors comply with billing guidelines, DEI, organizational processes, and more. 

Learn More About Legal Ops

Interested in exploring the role of legal ops further? Below are three suggested articles to get you started:

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Brightflag is a comprehensive cloud software solution for managing global legal spend, including the ability to: centralize vendors and rates; set and track budgets; manage matters; review and approve invoices; collect accruals; and run reports on everything.

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