Growin’ Up: The Legal Ops Function Matures

People often ask me to explain what the legal ops function is all about. While the roles, responsibilities, expectations, and objectives are different from company to company, there actually is a simple answer. Law department operations professionals exist to bring business discipline to the law department.

That’s it. Everything that an LDO does — from outside counsel management to data analytics to technology — is all to serve that one simple objective: to bring business discipline to the law department.

Last month we published the 10th Anniversary Law Department Operations Survey Annual Report: Decoding a Decade of Data to Map the LDO Journey. It’s a 32-page report that illustrates and analyzes key trend data from the past 10 years. We collect more than 300 data points each year, so there’s a lot in there. The report can be downloaded free.

A number of trends stand out, including big changes in the way LDOs relate to outside counsel. I’ve been studying the data pretty closely, and I can’t stop thinking about the responses to our question about the changes in the self-reported top challenges faced by the LDO.

A decade ago, most of the top challenges were related to proving the position’s value:

1. Identify opportunities for business improvement and cost savings
2. Show value of the position to the corporation
3. Obtain funding to do projects within the department
4. Obtain funding for resources
5. Gain attorney respect
6. Communicate successfully with the general counsel

[Note: We asked each participant to list their top three challenges.]

The challenges listed in 2008 are not in alignment with a role whose mission is to bring business discipline to the law department. They are mostly consistent with a role just finding its way.

Fast forward 10 years and a lot has changed. Today’s LDOs no longer have to prove their value to anyone. Here are last year’s top challenges:

1. Drive/implement change
2. Contain costs
3. Identify opportunities for business improvement and cost savings
4. Manage outside counsel
5. Obtain funding for resources
6. Deal with compliance issues

What’s interesting about these six challenges is that they are not law-department specific; they are the same challenges as those faced by managers throughout the company. Every function struggles to drive change. Every function struggles to contain costs, to identify opportunities to improve and to manage its vendors. And every function fights for resources.

What does that mean? It means that the days of “law is a profession, not a business” are coming to an end. The legal ops movement is all about bringing business skills to in-house legal — and it is succeeding.

What exactly are LDOs doing now to bring business discipline to law departments? That’s what the Annual Law Department Operations Survey is all about. The questionnaire is open until October 26. All you have to do take a few minutes to fill out the online survey. We will synthesize the results, and will send you back the Full Report, which includes more than 300 data points and is exclusively available to in-house counsel and LDOs who take the survey.

Please visit to take the survey. It only takes a few minutes, and we promise you will find the data invaluable as you work hard to overcome new challenges and bring business discipline to your law department.

Brad Blickstein is principal of the Blickstein Group, a consultancy helping businesses serve corporate law departments and law firms. He also is publisher of the Annual Law Department Operations Survey, which for 10 years has provided the most comprehensive data and analysis on the Legal Ops function.

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