Legal Ops Software: How CLM Helps Legal Ops Functions Achieve Maturity
Legal Ops is the efficiency hub of the legal department. While in-house counsel is focused on protecting the business from risk through contract review, Legal Operations is responsible for making legal processes more efficient and cost-effective. At its core, the Legal Ops function helps in-house counsel with more practical skills like vendor management, technology evaluation and acquisition, and strategic planning. And Legal Ops software helps make it happen.
Over the last few years, the legal industry has been making a concerted effort to change the reputation of in-house legal teams, which are notorious for being both a cost center and a department of “no.” The Legal Ops function has introduced technology, process efficiencies, and standardized metrics that legal teams can use to become a strategic business unit contributing to revenue goals.
Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) software enables Legal Ops teams to efficiently carry out their role and manage one of the more time-consuming aspects of the legal function — operating contracts.
Legal Ops in Modern Businesses
As a result of innovation in the field, the legal department is able to do more with less, thanks to Legal Ops. Legal Ops has grown in popularity and acclaim as a result of the work of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), which has essentially defined the legal ops function for the last decade or so.
And while legal teams are notorious for being behind the curve of tech advancements, the introduction of the Legal Ops function into the modern legal department has accelerated tech acquisition and software implementation. As a result, we see significant development in the realm of legal technology in all sorts of tasks, like e-discovery, contract analytics, knowledge management, e-billing, and contract management.
Whereas in-house counsel stays in the moment, Legal Ops anticipates challenges and proactively finds solutions. While more and more businesses are implementing a Legal Ops function, their level of maturity depends on how well they adhere to the CLOC Core 12.
CLOC Core 12
CLOC’s Core 12 outlines functional areas that Legal Ops teams need to master to achieve operational success. This competency model aims to outline areas of concern for legal teams and map innovative solutions that change the way legal departments provide legal services. Legal Ops teams can use these to achieve operational maturity and improve the legal function as a whole.
It can be challenging to achieve these functions off the bat, especially for a newer department still making hiring and strategic considerations. This isn’t something that should be attempted all at once but be planned out and systematically approached. Using these as your guide, over time, your function will grow even more sophisticated.
5 Reasons Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) Is Essential to Legal Ops Software Stacks
Even though contracts aren’t specifically mentioned in the Core 12 model, they are a powerful undercurrent of the success of a legal department. It is because legal teams run on contracts. An effective knowledge management program, gleaning accurate business intelligence, and managing legal programs require efficiently managed contracts that are centrally stored and easily accessible across the business. CLM should be an integral part of Legal Ops’ software stack.
Here are five ways that contract management can help Legal Ops improve their function:
Provides business intelligence
Highly successful organizations use data to make crucial decisions. From comp planning and hiring decisions to budgeting and forecasting, data is the linchpin in most business strategies. Unfortunately, most legal teams lack the technology, processes, and infrastructure to track and manage data properly.
Notably, contracts have some of the most fundamental business data — i.e. who you do business with, average contract value, and the number of executed contracts per quarter or year. This data can provide performance benchmarks that measure the effectiveness of Legal Ops initiatives and point Legal in the right direction.
Using a CLM, your team has access to crucial data that can help them make smarter decisions. Even better, if your CLM integrates well with other data systems across the business, that opens you up to more robust data sets and bolsters cross-functional alignment, which has historically been difficult in the legal department.
Assists with firm and vendor management
It is common for legal teams to run small. In fact, according to Legal Dive, the median size of an in-house legal team is six members, even bigger for larger companies with higher revenues. Regardless of the team size, all legal teams engage with vendors and outside counsel in some way.
Law firms operate on billable hours, so their fees can end up being way higher than initially anticipated. If not managed properly, these costs can add up. Likewise, if you don’t remain mindful of not just the cost of legal service vendors but how well they perform their assigned role, you can quickly end up overspending and not getting the promised return on investment.
CLM can help you track obligations and establish metrics to measure vendor and outside counsel performance. Even more, CLM provides powerful contract data that can help you establish benchmarks and track new department trends, empowering Legal Ops to make smarter decisions about engaging with alternative legal service providers (ALSPs) and still come out on top.
Improves knowledge management
One of the biggest detriments in-house legal professionals face is a lack of access to historical company knowledge. As companies bring on new employees, it can be difficult for them to get up to speed in a timely manner if there is no central, easily accessible source of information where they can see what’s been done before.
For most companies, this information lives in the brains of the CEO or other long-term employees rather than in onboarding documents. As a result, new hires have to ask around for everything, sometimes even unsure what to ask for or what best practices are.
Since a CLM is a cross-functional tool, Legal Ops teams can use it to keep track of historical contract data and other business agreements. This way, if someone needs to know how long someone has been a customer and what standard practice around their account is, the information will be centrally and efficiently available inside your CLM instance. It can become even more powerful if you integrate other essential business tools into your contract management software.
Helps with department operations
The biggest draw of having a Legal Ops function is allowing in-house counsel to focus on protecting the business. Because legal departments tend to run lean, team members often end up taking on more than they have a capacity for.
This means that Legal spends time outing fires and tending to manual, tedious tasks instead of focusing on projects that can drive the business forward. Not only can this lead to burnout of top Legal talent, but it also diminishes the business’ ability to prioritize high-value initiatives that will significantly impact the bottom line.
Legal Ops can use CLM to take some of this off their plate. For example, CLM can automate contract creation and enable contract workflows that require less human intervention to move it through the pipeline. CLM helps take care of repetitive, time-consuming tasks and frees up counsel to do more impactful work.
Informs strategic planning
Since Legal is expected to be a strategic business partner, they need to participate in their organization’s goals and planning. But without the necessary tools or processes, it can be easy to fall behind.
In fact, without the infrastructure for looking forward or measuring success, legal teams can easily fall back into the practice of being reactive and short-sighted. Without Legal Ops (or the necessary technology), the legal department can be too busy focusing on the flame in front of them that they don’t see the fire raging everywhere.
With CLM, Legal Ops can set and measure against broader business goals and strategic priorities. For example, you can design your contract workflows, approval processes, and post-signing tasks based on your business goals and needs. In designing these operational flows, CLM can help you get all important stakeholders on the same page about the contract process.
Legal Ops teams are the cornerstone of a successful legal department. While in-house counsel focuses on the company’s risk profile and determines the contract language that will keep the business safest, Legal Ops is on the ball, taking care of the small but important things. It may be making sure that the data in your tech tools is clean, the handoffs are seamless, and the legal department is cost-efficient.
A CLM is one of the best tools to help Legal Ops tackle some of their more crucial functions, including wrangling contracts. Interested in learning more? Learn more about contract management software to get to know how it can benefit your legal team.