What is legal operations?

Legal operations is an emerging field for in-house legal teams around the world - whether that function is led by the General Counsel or a designated Legal Operations Manager.
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The legal operations movement.

Since the global financial crisis, COVID-19, and with improvements in technology, there is increasing pressure for in-house lawyers/corporate counsel throughout the ecosystem to be more data-driven and transparent, to analyze processes, to identify and automate predictable tasks, and to engage more collaboratively with stakeholders. Lead by pioneering corporate legal teams, the “legal operations” movement is the response to these pressures.


  • Artisanal advice.
  • All lawyers operate inside the safety of the "black box".

Post GFC

  • AFA's become commonplace.
  • Revised billing guidelines increase pressure on outside counsel to reduce fees and be more transparent.

The legal operations era

  • Legal departments also under pressure as risk increases and resources shrink.
  • C-suite expects data and granular insights.
  • Legal operations established in response.
  • The black box is opened.

People. Process. Technology.

At its most basic level, “legal operations” is about a holistic alignment of 3 core elements as they relate to the management of a legal department.


It all starts with the right people, with the right mindset engaging key stakeholders to understand where they can deliver the most value.


Capturing effort and process as data that can be broken down, analyzed and improved on is a critical step in developing a legal operations framework.


The best-laid plans are worthless without the tools that make it all possible. Tools like LawVu that let you focus on developing your people, and process, while we develop the technology.

Why is legal operations important?

  • Allows legal professionals to focus on legal work and shift operational work to the professionals who can optimize, scale, accelerate, and improve these processes.
  • Includes onboarding of technology that optimizes and accelerates process and allow client self-service.
  • Allows you to capture and report on metrics that demonstrate the value of the legal function to the business.
  • Allocates dedicated resource for better management of legal spend.
  • Improves partnerships outside counsel and partners.
  • Better alignment of legal with the rest of the business.

The role of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).

CLOC was launched in 2009 by two Silicon Valley operations veterans—Stephanie Corey and Connie Brenton. Originally the group included about 30 legal ops pros from the law departments of Cisco, Google, Adobe, Amazon, Qualcomm, and other companies but now membership and influence are exploding.

CLOC now has 1400 members in 43 states and 37 countries. Attendance of the flagship CLOC conference in Las Vegas is doubling year on year, and its core philosophies, disciplines, and teachings are permeating the industry.

The responsibilities of legal operations managers vary widely from department to department, so there’s no set way to define the job. Along with managing outside counsel and vendors, some operation specialists oversee department budgeting and staffing, as well as diversity and pro bono programs.

Others have also taken take the lead on implementing e-billing and/or e-contract management systems and other technology initiatives. Whatever their specific duties, however, CLOC co-founders Brenton and Corey say that over the past decade the general trend has been clear: Legal ops managers have been gaining significantly more clout. That’s definitely been the case inside corporate legal departments, where they note most operations managers now report directly to GCs and many have risen to VP and other senior management slots.

But the same thing could be said about the growing influence of legal operations pros on the industry as a whole. Especially given their increasing sway on department spending habits and decisions. As Brenton points out: “We carry the budgets for billions of dollars in legal spend.”
Source Bloomberg Law

CLOC conference
CLOC conference

The 12 Core Legal Operations Competencies

CLOC has identified 12 core competencies that provide a foundational understanding of “best practice” in the legal operations space. To see how LawVu can help your organization build its legal operations competencies, head on over to this article: "How LawVu can help build legal operations competencies."

Financial management

Manage the departmental budget. Track accruals and forecasting. Work with Finance to identify spending trends, potential cost savings and efficiency opportunities.

Vendor management

Create a vendor management program to ensure quality outside counsel support at the right rates and under optimal fee arrangements. Hold regular business reviews. Negotiate fee agreements. Drive governance of billing guidelines.

Cross functional alignment

Manage the departmental budget. Track accruals and forecasting. Work with Finance to identify spending Collect and analyze relevant data from department tools and industry sources, define objectives to provide metrics and dashboards, that drive efficiencies and optimize spend, etc.

Technology support

Create a long-term technology roadmap including tools such as e-billing/matter management, contract management, content management, IP management, business process management, e-signature, board management, compliance management, legal hold, subsidiary management, etc.

Alternative Support Models

Drive departmental efficiency by leveraging managed services, LPOs, and other service providers.

Professional Development and Team Building

Deliver improved GC Staff and overall team performance by globalizing the team and creating a culture of growth, development, collaboration and accountability.


Work collaboratively across the legal ecosystem to create consistent global processes, from on boarding to complex project management support. Publish regular departmental communications, plan and execute all-hands.

Data Analytics

Collect and analyze relevant data from department tools and industry sources, define objectives to provide metrics and dashboards, that drive efficiencies and optimize spend, etc.

Litigation Support

Support e-discovery, legal hold, document review.

Knowledge management

Enable efficiencies by creating seamless access to legal & department institutional knowledge through the organization and centralization of key templates, policies, processes, memos, and other learnings.

Global Data Governance / Records management

Create a records management program including a record retention schedule, policies and processes.

Strategic planning

Create a long-term strategy, aligning yearly goals and corresponding metrics.

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