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The Billable Hour: How to Make Your Legal Operations More Efficient

Posted 07/6/16 8:57 PM by Tom Spaulding

The legal industry has long been accused of being a model of inefficiency. It’s easy to see why: the foundational metric -the billable hour - dictates that the more time something takes, the more revenue is accrued.

Compounding this is the industry’s deserved reputation for slow adoption of new technology.

But there is a movement afoot that could ultimately impact the way the industry works.

More and more corporations are pushing back against the status quo and are asking: Is there a better way of doing things?

To help answer the question, corporate legal departments are turning to Legal Operations.

Legal Operations professionals combine legal and procurement functions with deep industry knowledge and business acumen, striving toward a goal of making legal run better. They operate in a world of metrics and dashboards, seeking to drive departmental efficiency while working to ensure buy-in and implementation. Roles and responsibilities can run the gamut and touch upon litigation, contract management, e-billing, human resources, and other areas that impact legal spend  and department workflow.

While the roles and responsibilities vary from company-to-company, and role-to-role, the basic premise is to evaluate legal spend and workflows in order to identify departmental inefficiencies in order to streamline them. This opens doors for evaluating new approaches, technologies, service providers or even negotiating alternative/preferential fee arrangements through consolidation of spend.   In an ideal world, the decisions made will save the company money and allow counsel to focus more time what they were hired to do.

Evidence of this industry trend was no greater than at the inaugural Corporate Legal Operations Institute, which was held in San Francisco May 2 through May 4, 2016. Over 500 legal operations professionals and vendors congregated and held over 50 sessions to discuss best practices, new technologies and other ways to make corporate legal run more efficiently and effectively.

The institute was an ambitious offspring of CLOC – the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, a bourgeoning organization of Legal Operations professionals founded by Stephanie Corey (Flex) and Connie Brenton (NetApp).  Companies represented at the conference included Google, Adobe, Yahoo! and Cisco. Vendors that attended included law firms, software companies and service providers, including Inventus.

Surely Legal Operations isn’t a new development; many of the large enterprises have had the position for years. What is new is the sudden buzz around the position, and that is attributable to CLOC. CLOC has provided a platform to carry a bigger voice and a network to share ideas and ask questions.

In fact, the heads of CLOC anticipate robust membership growth and an even larger conference next year with a goal to move the conference eastward.

The organization’s website offers resources including information about the Legal Operations role and Industry Guidelines.

At Inventus, we engage at various levels within corporate legal departments, including Legal Operations.

The legal ops role, with its emphasis on reducing cost while driving efficiency is akin to finding a kindred spirit in terms of aligning organizational goals with Inventus’ core value proposition, which is the reduction of overall spend through the use of technology and expertise. Many of our offerings, including our business analytics dashboard, Spotlight, and Multi-Matter Management offering, M3, were created in part due to feedback from corporate legal departments.

The emergence of Legal Operations, and an organization like CLOC, is a clear signal that companies are reevaluating legal spend and are hungry for solutions that will ultimately save them time and money.

I anticipate CLOC to continue to grow and provide resources for companies and professionals seeking help while amplifying the call for change in the legal industry.

The result will be the continued rise in managed services, LPOs, and internal resources being applied to tasks that were once handled by outside counsel.

Law firms will have to adapt to the new business dynamics and I believe that will be through collaboration with both client and vendors.

The challenge for vendors, such as Inventus, will be to continue to innovate and create robust solutions that align and anticipate the client’s goals.

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Tom Spaulding

About The Author

Tom Spaulding is a Senior Solutions Consultant at Inventus and based in the Bay Area. He entered the discovery space shortly after the 2006 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect. In the 8 + years since, Tom has gained extensive hands-on experience working with clients in a project management and discovery consultant capacity. Tom interfaces primarily with corporate legal teams to streamline their discovery processes and reduce the cost and risk associated with the discovery process.


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