by Nathan Cemenska, Wolters Kluwer's ELM Solutions

Like all organizations, in-house legal teams are on a mission: balancing cost-effectiveness with operational efficiency while aligning with the organization’s larger efforts. There are several ways to do this. In October, we explored one: setting goals and measurement metrics. Now, let’s take a look at another: building a high-performing legal operations team.

We all talk about running corporate legal departments as “businesses within the business,” but that’s difficult to achieve without a legal operations team that understands the nuances and needs of the organization. The legal operations function bridges the gap between the law department and the rest of the organization and serves as a crucial advocate for the legal team. Legal operations professionals understand the larger corporate picture and how to push the legal department toward a true business focus that will yield financial dividends and help advance their organizations.

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that define legal operations today, and three steps organizations can take to build their own effective legal operations teams.

Flexibility and Adaptability Leads to High Performance

Adapting to change is a crucial component of effective legal operations teams. Legal issues are different for each industry, and the way a legal operations team works needs to reflect those differences. For example, in a technology company, the legal department might need to be more open to trying new things and focusing on the biggest risks while strategically deprioritizing smaller ones. In a more conservative industry like insurance, the typically low risk tolerance of the legal function might more naturally align with the culture of the larger organization.

High performance legal operations work requires nuance and flexibility. In effect, the team must serve as a conduit between legal and the parent organization, and have a deep understanding of the work being done in both areas. They must understand overall business goals and help legal teams match their work to meet those goals. This is particularly important as those goals evolve—an evolution that the company’s legal professionals may not be privy to immediately.