Risk & Strategy
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Hope Cannon
Director of Legal Operations

Legal operations for the future: Why it’s important and what’s ahead

March 28, 2024
0 min read
legal professional reading about the vital role of legal operations

Legal operations teams are always looking to do more: to be more strategic, pull more data and implement more technologies.

But how can we do this while strapped for time, cash and people?

Why are legal operations teams important?

Legal operations teams are essential in the legal industry because we synthesize not only internal departments, but the entirety of the organization. We translate business needs into legal needs and legal needs into business needs. We connect teams and bring business operations into a legal department. To be successful, it is imperative to understand your organization; provide consistent, clear and measurable data to key stakeholders; and use resources tactfully.

Each legal process and priority needs to be analyzed early and with all key stakeholders. No two organizations are alike, and not all legal operation departments are the same. One of the beauties of legal operation professionals is that they come from a variety of backgrounds – lawyers, paralegals, business operations and IT professionals, project managers and more. This diversity helps to meet the organization’s needs by promoting better collaboration across teams and departments.

Legal operations demands hard work, the ability to pivot and the drive for constant improvement. In order to meet these requirements, we must stay ahead of industry trends and understand what is in store for the future.

What’s ahead for legal operations?

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024 and beyond, it’s clear that legal operations will be involved in a number of high-profile initiatives that require their specific blend of skills and expertise.

Contract lifecycle management

Contract lifecycle management (CLM) systems have been on legal operation professionals’ minds for the past few years. If selected properly and set up strategically, CLMs are known to be effective and speed up contract negotiation, finalization and execution. They provide transparency and invaluable metrics to help legal departments show their strength, and are progressively getting better.

However, not all CLMs work for every company. Do your research and speak to your colleagues across the industry. Speak both internally with key stakeholders and externally within the legal operations community. Understand what is on the market, what is provided off-the-shelf and what can be customizable. Understand if a CLM is set up for dedicated contract administration teams, or if it can be easily utilized by internal stakeholders. Issues often arise when users and owners are not tagged and brought along for the CLM implementation process from the beginning.

Artificial intelligence

Doing more with less is contingent upon speeding up work in an ever-demanding environment. If legal operation professionals do not get up-to-speed on artificial intelligence (AI) tools to increase productivity now, it will be too late.

When researching AI tools, speak to your legal department and consider these key questions:

  • What are the pain points AI can help with?
  • Who are your stakeholders (i.e., IT, technology, Finance, Procurement, Legal)?
  • What is the appetite (i.e., do you have your champions on board and in support)?
  • What is the timeline for AI implementation?

Most legal technologies include (or say that they include) an AI component. When AI is referenced, drill down on what that exactly entails:

  • Will your data be utilized in machine learning?
  • To what extent will manual review and work be required?
  • Bring in your Information Security (InfoSec) teams early in the review and make sure that AI functionality has the appropriate security protections in place.
  • Understand what AI tools can be implemented quickly (i.e., e-billing, e-discovery) and what tools may take more time to evaluate (i.e., contract redlining).

Enterprise risk management

Enterprise risk management (ERM) programs are crucial for all organizations, because. the ability to proactively assess and mitigate risks is imperative for success.

Legal operation teams should work with their compliance teams to focus on risk identification and remediation. ERM programs at any stage – infancy through maturity – can never have more review and analysis for growth.

For legal operations professionals, a spotlight on ERM programs decreases the impact of a crisis and increases their team’s role in protecting your organization’s reputation and compliance with applicable laws.

Integration and implementation of ERM tools affords your company the opportunity to grow and advance its goals and mission.


Continued automation is key for legal departments:

  • Create KPIs and perform listening tours around your department to see what team members and stakeholders spend the most time on and what they need.
  • Understand what repeated tasks and matters are being requested of the legal department for review and understand what can and should be automated.
  • Review contract matter management systems and legal ticketing systems. See what can be automated and see how you can help your team manage the needs of your organization.

Legal operations for the future

No matter what changes the future brings, focus on your team. Focus on your company’s mission. Focus on what can be done and what needs to be improved.

Legal operation teams are a major contributor to the success of the legal department and the organization. Do not underestimate the opportunities that await in the future – thanks to their unique position withing a company, legal operations professionals are often the first to spot those opportunities.


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