Updated: Aug 11, 2020
By Catherine J. Moynihan & Robin Snasdell.
Legal operations is a growing trend in international law departments. As a function, it optimises how a legal team deploys people, processes, technology, and data to improve efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the legal service delivery model.
In 2019, the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) partnered with Consilio to raise awareness and competency in legal operations across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). That collaboration formed ACC Legal Operations EMEA, a project to support in-house legal teams as they work to enhance their law department management. ACC Legal Operations EMEA holds bi-monthly virtual roundtables to discuss different aspects of the legal operations function, with over 500 attendees from legal departments across EMEA.
ACC Legal Operations EMEA holds bi-monthly virtual roundtables to discuss different aspects of the legal operations function, with over 500 attendees from legal departments across EMEA.
A meeting last October in Frankfurt saw over 50 legal operations leaders attend from 14 countries.
Some of the insights drawn from these online and in-person discussions are presented below.
Legal Operations - what is it?
Corporate law departments in EMEA, as elsewhere globally, are implementing legal operations functions. Legal Operations functions vary in focus but broadly have remits to improve operational performance and maximize efficiency of spend. As cost pressures and complexity of legal services mount, and technology options abound, many general counsel (GCs) are now delegating responsibility for legal operations to a deputy GC; others are establishing a dedicated legal operations team, which may or may not be led by a lawyer. In one polled session, 55 percent of respondents reported that their legal operations team consisted of one to five members. A further 31.3 percent reported six to 20 members, and 13.5 percent identified 21 or more.
From the virtual roundtables, we know that many corporate legal teams are less sophisticated in their use of legal technologies than their colleagues in the US. They frequently lack any specific legal technology solutions and have limited, or no, specific budget for IT. Counsel facing these challenges appreciate support in understanding how others have made a business case for technology solutions, and share tactics to bring their team around to successful adoption.
Change Management – a core competency
One virtual roundtable focused on change management, with participants from companies of various industries, sizes, and levels of maturity. Sixty-eight percent of participant poll respondents identified their legal teams as being in the early stages of change management maturity.
We heard about difficulties in implementing new ways of working within the legal teams, which can be partially attributed to the fact that very few (12 percent) of those responding to questions during the roundtable had someone dedicated to change management in their legal team. However, 40 percent reported having a team member in this role on a part-time basis.
The advisory board of ACC Legal Operations EMEA (which include representatives from Adidas, ASML, Banco Santander, Barclays, BT, Capgemini, Continental, Heraeus, Idemia, Lindt, Novartis, Orange, PVH Europe, Total, and UBS) have discussed ways to address challenges with technology user adoption. We believe the lack of change management maturity might go some way to explain this. Our speakers addressed the ‘change transition curve’, and encouraged legal department leaders to use the ACC Legal Operations Maturity Model Toolkit (https://www2.acc.com/maturity/) to benchmark and advance in any given area.
The Change Transition Curve – what is it?
Without involving or considering how people work and react to changes, new technology/processes can fail, leading to financial consequences.
Encouraging user adoption throughout the transition is key. So how do we ensure the user remains in the forefront of the process?
Below are four key stages to managing change. Addressing each stage, Consilio suggests the following remediation approach:
1. Identifying a Change: Change can happen at any time, in systems or in processes.
Remediation: Keep the communication channels open between the organisation and user. Think about the communication form to be used: meeting, email, newsletter. Listen to user concerns and address them immediately.
2. Period of Adjustment: There will be a period of adjustment, marked by anxiety and uncertainty.
3. Resistance to Change: Behaviours such as denial, self-doubt, frustration, and resistance are common.
Remediation: Depending on the type of change, adjustments can vary. A good example is a data entry system. Whilst the data can be shared with management, the change curve might not be as challenging to that of a data entry employee. Ensure you look at the different personas and ways to bring them along the change journey.
4. Change Readiness: How do you changing or enhance what an individual already knows?
Remediation: Suggested approaches include:
Champions: A champion is integral and can make a difference between the success or failure of the change. The champion works with the project team, individuals, and the organisation. The champion’s role is to:
support and promote the change, echoing the benefits
serve as first point of contact for dealing with or passing on any concerns/issue on behalf of the project team
be a 'super user’, the go-to person for staff questions.
Training: Training can be delivered via
email, newsletter, or publication
face to face meetings
Ongoing training has shown to be useful in increasing and embedding user adoption.
Digital Transformation – tailoring is important
Digital transformation — automation, cloud computing, and extensive gathering and application of data — has different implications for every organisation. It is crucial for legal teams to understand how digital transformation adds value, and how to quantify that value specific to their own departments and needs. One ACC Legal Operations EMEA virtual roundtable elaborated how technologies and digital transformation can drive efficiency. However, implementation is challenging, and support is often required from external consultants: 63 percent of poll respondents said their legal team was not ready for digital transformation, and 33 percent said digital transformation had only made them ‘somewhat’ more efficient.
Outside Counsel Management - data & dialogue are vital
Roundtable speakers and participants highlighted the importance of increasing communications with law firms, and of using data to gain insights and make better strategic decisions about legal matters. They identified structured, continuous dialogue (e.g., quarterly business reviews) between law firms and clients as a significant aid to successful management and cost efficiency. This is consistent with the “End Of The Duopoly Report” from Blickstein Group and Consilio, in which 79 percent of respondents rated a direct relationship with law firms as effective in controlling external spend.
Leveraging the Legal Ops Function – focus leads to impacts
It is clear from the knowledge-sharing throughout 2019 that legal departments with dedicated legal ops staff, led by an executive who has a seat at the GC’s leadership table, are advancing rapidly in maturity – and more important, optimizing legal services for the corporation. By ensuring that work is performed by the right resources, both internally and externally, applying data to inform decision-making and manage performance, and change management techniques to nurture adoption of new processes and systems, legal operations professionals across EMEA are helping their legal departments shine as valued business partners.
About the Authors
Catherine is the associate vice president of legal management services at the Association of Corporate Counsel. She is the ACC subject matter expert on managing the legal function and legal spending. She leads ACC Legal Operations section, the Value Challenge/Champions and the Research function, providing resources, benchmarking and training in key management techniques to improve efficiency and effectiveness in the delivery of legal services. Moynihan has an MBA from Columbia University (Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society) and a BA in International Relations and English from the University of Virginia. She is a fellow in the College of Law Practice Management, which recognizes distinguished law practice management professionals.
Robin joined HuronLegal/Consilio in 2002 following 5 years at Arthur Andersen, LLP . His expertise includes legal department performance assessment, strategy, organizational design, process improvement, system selection and implementation, change management, technology assessment and planning, project management, and most importantly - benchmarking.
He offers a dynamic blend of practical experience in law, business and technology. Robin focuses on assisting global companies improve their business performance by providing strategic consulting, process improvement, change management and technology-related solutions to the General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer.
ACC partners with Consilio to host bi-monthly virtual roundtables. To register or view
previous roundtable(s), visit https://www.acc.com/legal-operations-emea
For information on the services provided by Consilio refer to: https://uk.consilio.com/services/law-department-management/
For information on ACC’s maturity model
refer to: www.acc.com/maturity
This article was originally published at Business Law Magazine - No. 1 - February 27, 2020