Speaking to Lawyers Weekly recently, founder and chair of CLOC Australia Mick Sheehy shared what he believes are some of the big trends set to play out in the legal arena moving forward.
“In Australia over the last 12 months we have seen a small but growing number of legal departments hire high calibre dedicated legal operations professionals. I expect this to continue,” Mr Sheehy said.
Legal operations is described as a “multi-disciplinary function that optimises legal services delivery to a business or government entity by focusing on following 12 core competencies”, according to the CLOC website.
Those 12 competencies are listed as: litigation support and IP management; knowledge management; information governance and records management; strategic planning; financial management; vendor management; cross-functional alignment; technology and process support; service delivery and alternative support models; organisational design, support and management; communications; and data analytics.
The sentiment that legal operations roles were on the rise was reinforced by Jodie Baker, founder and CEO, Xakia Technologies.
Ms Baker’s company is also affiliated with CLOC (which abbreviates from Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) - a self-described non-competitive organisation that aims to share best practice knowledge about legal operations, legal technology and legal innovation.
The company started five years ago when NetApp legal operations director Connie Brenton founded its US arm, before Mr Sheehy launched an Aussie outfit of the organisation in 2016. It now has a membership base of more than 700 companies and 1,500 members worldwide.
Throughout her legal career and time at CLOC, Ms Baker told Lawyers Weekly that she too has noticed a building momentum on recruiting legal ops roles, particularly at the CLOC US Institute event held in Las Vegas, Nevada, recently.
“This was the second year Xakia has sponsored the CLOC US Institute, and the growth in both attendance and maturity of the organisation was clearly evident. The event drew a multinational crowd of general counsel and legal operations professionals, a growing list of LegalTech vendors, consultants and commentators; the buzz throughout the event was sometimes at fever pitch. The momentum of this 'LegalOps' discussion is difficult to overstate,” Ms Baker said.
"For Xakia, the CLOC US Institute is an opportunity to engage with clients and collaborators, and to build awareness of Xakia's purpose-built in-house legal software and North American team. The LegalOps and LegalTech landscapes are moving so quickly – consolidation, new players, clients' changing priorities and budgets – it is essential to be in this conversation to understand what clients are focused on, what they need and ensure we are agile enough to deliver it."
Ms Baker's company Xakia published a whitepaper in March reinforcing the value of legal operations in-house, noting that this function can help teams control cost, improve their performance and even have a better quality of life.
“While every legal department is different – and some teams, budgets and regulatory pressures are bigger than others – every business can see real value from implementing legal operations initiatives," the whitepaper stated.
These benefits, Xakia wrote, included a better alignment between the legal department and the company’s overall strategy, more cohesive teams, smarter staffing, greater control over costs, and a better deployment of law firms.
In addition, companies would have more access to practical ideas for innovation, a clearer framework for business experiments, faster and more meaningful reporting, more time, and the ability for lawyers to feel empowered, the whitepaper noted.