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How operationally mature are global legal teams?

New research has identified the functions on which legal departments self-identify as being most mature with regard to legal operations.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 07 July 2020 Corporate Counsel
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The “2020 Legal Operations Maturity Benchmarking Report”, produced by the Association of Corporate Counsel in conjunction with Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, examined the performances and self-assessments of in-house legal departments on 15 different legal ops functions. Responses were received from 316 legal departments across the globe, spanning 29 countries and 24 industries.

Legal departments were asked to provide a self-assessment on their maturity level across the 15 functions on a scale of one to six, with one denoting maturity is at an “early stage” and six deeming maturity is at an “advanced stage and is pioneering new developments in this competency”. The average maturity rate of all legal departments was then calculated on that scale.

Compliance was deemed to be the legal ops function with the highest average maturity rate (3.46), closely followed by financial management (3.34). These were the only two functions to score about three out of six.


The lowest-ranked functions in terms of maturity were change management (2.38), eDiscovery and litigation management (2.37) and innovation management (2.09).

The other functions listed were: information governance (2.95), contract management (2.90), external resources management (2.85), technology management (2.73), strategic planning (2.70), knowledge management (2.69), intellectual property management (2.60), process and project management (2.59), internal resources management (2.53) and metrics and analysis (2.50).

In its deep dive of the results, ACC and Wolters Kluwer wrote that “not all functions” are equal when it comes to legal operations for in-house departments.

“Average maturity levels vary considerably among functions. Compliance and financial management are the two top-rated functions. Conversely, change management, eDiscovery and litigation management and innovation management ranked at the bottom,” the report read.

“While most functions are applicable to a vast majority of legal departments, intellectual property management and eDiscovery and litigation management are not relevant to all, especially for smaller companies. Alongside compliance and financial management, the five core legal operations functions, based on the highest percentage of relevance and comparatively high average scores, also include information governance, contract management, and external resources management.”

The study shows, the report continued, that having dedicated legal ops professions sitting in the legal department has a positive impact on maturity rates on the aforementioned functions.

“Both in terms of maturity rates for each individual function and overall maturity, departments with legal operations professionals score significantly better across companies of different revenue sizes. Put simply, departments with no legal operations professionals are, on average, at an early maturity stage, while departments with dedicated legal operations staff are at an intermediate stage,” it read.

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