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Nearly half of legal departments working without a formal plan
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Nearly half of legal departments working without a formal plan

Papers

New research shows an alarming number of legal departments “flying blind”, with smaller legal teams in particular not performing regular reviews of progress and aligning with business strategy.

The Legal Operations Health Check, undertaken by Xakia, polled in-house lawyers and legal operations personnel across five continents and provides insights into the state of strategic planning within legal operations, data on alignment and metrics.

The findings show that only 31 per cent of legal departments plan at least ‘moderately well’ in reviewing their progress. When broken down into department size, 48 per cent of teams between one and five, 48 per cent of teams of six to 10, 39 per cent of teams of 11 to 50 and 33 per cent of teams of more than 50 say they have no plans in place.

In response to the findings, Xakia said that no legal department works in a vacuum.

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“It’s critical that legal operations strategy coordinates with company strategy and other corporate and support functions,” it wrote.

“Alignment on both of these fronts represents an opportunity for improvement for many legal teams.”

When asked how well their legal operations strategy aligned with company strategy, only 27 per cent said it aligns well. Fourteen per cent said such alignment was still in development, and 32 per cent said alignment hadn’t started.

Further, when queried about the extent to which legal operations strategy aligned with corporate and support functions, only 19 per cent said it aligned well. Thirteen per cent said it was in development, and 32 per cent said alignment had not yet begun.

Elsewhere, about half of all legal departments currently lack metrics or regular review, Xakia found.

The research showed that 49 per cent of departments said their legal operations strategy did not include “well-defined and measurable metrics”, 53 per cent said they do not perform any regular tracking against metrics or key initiatives, and 43 per cent do not perform any regular review of their progress.

“Even the best, most aligned strategy will stagnate without support from the human beings responsible for its execution,” Xakia commented. But, on this point, there was potential for optimism, as 50 per cent of legal department members were at least ‘moderately’ committed to continuous improvement in legal operations.

“As 2019 gets underway, legal departments should formalise their legal operations strategies to ensure they tackle the most important initiatives,” Xakia advised.

“Without a written plan, too often loftier projects are sacrificed for ‘business as usual’.”

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