What are Legal Operations?

Legal Operations

When we think of ‘legal’ in terms of business, the image often conjured is one of a room full of corporate lawyers and legal experts arguing over the best ways to deal with contract disputes and the optimum strategies for reducing liability within the commercial operation. While, in reality, the Legal Department of an organisation does indeed deal with those things, there is a division of labour within that business area that helps to create an effective legal team, and vital efficiency at the heart of the enterprise.

The division of labour

The work of the Legal Department is essential to the success of the business as a whole. This is the business area that has responsibility for the agreements that govern all business relationships – from workforce to suppliers of equipment – and therefore intersects closely with every other business area. Each department will have dealings with the Legal Department in one way or another, which places the Legal Department at the core of operations. Moreover, it doesn’t matter whether the business in question is a giant international conglomerate, or a small independent start-up – the tasks are the same, whether they are undertaken by a large team of legal professionals, or a single team member who also does other things.

Those tasks include:

  • Sourcing or providing legal advice pertaining to the business operation and relationships
  • Contract review
  • Dealing with litigation
  • Compliance
  • Resource management
  • Work prioritisation
  • Technology management

These tasks are divided into two categories of function. The first consists of ‘legal work,’ or the actual handling of legal issues within the business. Legal advice, litigation, and the review of contracts are all part of the legal work that happens within the Legal Department. Everything else – the resource management, technology management, compliance and work prioritisation – is classed as ‘Legal Operations.’

Legal Operations is the facilitation of legal work. Using a range of skills that include data analysis, project management and financial management, Legal Operations provides the structural integrity of the Legal Department. It is the function that allows the legal work to be completed. It is the legal work support system. The elements of function that fit the Legal Operations category make legal work possible. This is the division of labour with the Legal Department. If we think of the Legal Department as a Formula One racing team, then the legal experts are the drivers, and Legal Operations build and maintain the car.

The specifics of Legal Operations

Digging deeper into the work of Legal Operations, we find a distinct business area within the Legal Department that requires careful management. The more careful the management, the higher the level of success this business area can help to create.

  • Compliance

Every industry is subject to some form of regulation, whether that is in the form of governmental requirements, or industry-driven oversight. While that form of compliance can also be categorised as legal work, internal compliance – that is, the process of ensuring everything is aligned with the goals, vision and mission of the company – is entirely a task for Legal Operations. The upholding of compliance is, in essence, one of the vital checks and balances that is needed for the running of any business. Not only does it ensure that potential legal issues are either avoided or resolved quickly, it also ensures that cost-effectiveness is achieved by keeping everyone on-message, on-task, and on-track.

 

  • Resource management

In business, resources are not just found in the stationery supply cupboard. Resources can take many forms and are not simply the consumables that need to be regularly re-stocked. The workforce is a core resource, as are the parts and materials required for any manufacturing that is undertaken. The job of Legal Operations requires the effective management of resources used by the Legal Department – that is, ensuring the availability of whatever the Legal Department needs in order to function at a high level, within the means of the company as a whole. The area of resource management within Legal Operations is greatly concerned with efficiency and the need to achieve more while using less. In this way, particularly, Legal Operations has a significant impact on efficiency throughout the business.

 

  • Work prioritisation

Legal Operations is intricately involved in the workflow of the Legal Department. In conjunction with determining the deployment and application of resources, Legal Operations generally prioritises tasks and workload within the area of legal work. This can be influenced by resource availability and financial considerations, as well as the urgency and import of the legal issue at hand.

 

  • Technology management

As a core part of the business operation, the Legal Department has very specific needs when it comes to technology. Systems and processes must have functionality that achieves particular things, and the need for security is greater than in most other areas of the organisation. This is because the Legal Department will deal with commercially sensitive subjects as well as personal data. The management of technology therefore falls under the remit of Legal Operations, because the technology facilitates the work. Here, efficiency and cost-effectiveness is a significant consideration because the efficiency created by Legal Department technology will benefits the entire organisation. Meanwhile, cost-effectiveness in Legal Operations helps to boost profitability overall.

Creating value in Legal Operations with Contract Management Software

With everything that Legal Operations must handle and deliver, Contract Management Software provides a single, unified solution for the Legal Department that also serves to create value. The efficiencies provided by a Contract Management Software platform, such as Symfact, create scalability which, in turn, enables the creation of value.

The impact that this approach can have on a business should not be underestimated. In the past, Legal Departments have been regarded as a necessary expenditure rather than a source of profit. Though the goal of the department, overall, is to reduce costs through the effective mitigation of risk, the translation of this work to bottom line increases was rarely the emphasis. Though the Legal Department is not directly making sales, the implementation of Contract Management Software means that Legal Operations can deliver significant increases in profitability.

  • Centralisation

The centralisation of legal documentation provided by Contract Management Software drastically reduces the time-consumption involved in both Legal Operations and legal work. The browser-based design is built around a centralised repository, which includes templates for contract and clause creation. Contract data is one of the most valuable resources of any business, so collecting that data in this way creates a resource pool that can be deployed in a wide variety of ways to achieve a range of objectives. As a browser platform, Contract Management Software uses permission-based access protocols, meaning that authorised personnel can access the data pool at any time, from any location, further increasing efficiency while enhancing business continuity planning.

 

  • Automated processes

Automation of business processes is a significant method of boosting efficiency and, when implemented by Legal Operations, creates space within the workflow to allow for a strategy that is more pro-active and productive in nature. Contract Management Software automates a number of administrative tasks, including:

  • Workflow – A fully customisable and automatic system of notifications and alerts ensures that the right task is delivered to the right person at the right time. This allows for the timely fulfilment of deliverables and obligations, as well as enabling personnel to respond to event triggers, such as opportunities for renegotiation before the point of auto-renewal. The way in which this function helps to prevent missed deadlines increases efficiency throughout the organisation.
  • Audit trails – The automatic creation of audit trails keeps the organisation fully transparent, and the personnel fully accountable. In terms of compliance, a comprehensive audit trail ensures that industry regulations are met, internal processes and procedures are in alignment, and breaches of protocol can be identified and met with remediation at an early stage, further minimising risk.

The risk of human error is greatly reduced by automation, while accuracy and speed are increased. Further, the automation of these basic administrative processes releases personnel time and effort, allowing it to be better deployed to more complex and productive tasks. This type of resource management creates efficiency through team reconfiguration.

  • Actionable data

The generation of actionable data is where Legal Operations can contribute to the creation of new and enhanced business opportunities, as Contract Management Software applies highly accurate, customisable reporting facilities to the centralised pool of data to deliver information of commercial value. These data insights could pertain to the unexploited potential of Intellectual Property, further business opportunities associated with existing parties, or new Intellectual Property arising from the content of the centralised data pool.

Scalability is key

One of the biggest benefits that Contract Management Software can deliver to Legal Operations is scalability. The customisable and configurable nature of the platform means that it can be used in a way that is closely moulded to the unique needs of the operation, while ensuring that operation can be scaled up or down in accordance with market demand. This helps to future-proof the business, delivering increased efficiency and profitability in the long-term.

Contact Symfact today to discuss your Legal Operations needs.