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Consumer Trends 2023: How is legal operations changing the game on efficiency and productivity?

16 January 2023

With the perennial question of how do we do more but with much, much less, the maturing world of legal operations can deliver the real efficiency game-changers everyone is after.  

Initially, and a few years ago now, the role of the legal operations professional might have been perceived to be only about risk monitoring and cutting external legal spend. It also started out as only being considered of benefit to those organisations with the largest in-house legal teams. However, this role has really matured in recent years to contribute so much more and for all shapes and sizes of legal function. 

Of course, costs control is still key in the current environment. With how organisations might gain efficiencies in spending being on everyone's minds at present, it's worth understanding how the development of legal operations could bring about additional key benefits and identify opportunities for improvement on a broader basis.

DWF Mindcrest's Legal Operations Consultancy specialists have seen how this pressure in the consumer and retail sectors to re-structure and re-define the resourcing of the legal team and other key business functions (such as compliance & risk, regulatory support and procurement) leads organisations to explore different routes to success. As many organisations explore the need to consolidate their legal teams with these other key functions, it's becoming clear how much more there is to be gained from applying the legal operations mind-set to these new organisational structures. In fact, one might argue, it becomes critical to apply the benefits of legal operations to these more closely aligned teams, to ensure they're finding the best ways of working better together. 
 
Fundamentally, the world of legal operations is about applying business processes to ensure legal teams work in the most efficient way possible – taking the lessons from other industries or sectors, and applying them to find new ways of tackling old problems.

Often an entry point into the world of legal operations is via the new shiny technology toys that can present an exciting new solution to many long-standing gripes. That's the case if the key objective is simply a matter of ensuring everyone is accessing documents from a single repository of contracts; improving accessibility by managing the intake of new enquiries from across the business into a single front door; looking to take things to the next level by enabling automation of workflows and documents; or applying AI functionality to review tasks for greater speed and risk management whilst removing the mundane and low risk tasks from specialists' desks.

Mirroring the ways in which the consumer sector has seen its customers shift to digital over recent years, the move to document and workflow automation and process efficiency through technological development is key to how we transform the way in which organisations can achieve their goals internally. The transformation of how legal and procurement support the needs of a consumer and retail business needs to keep up the pace with those customer-facing elements of the organisation.

However, key to guaranteeing the long-term success of any new technology adoption is ensuring the right degree of scrutiny and improvement design has first been applied to the existing way of working across the organisation. Often this is where we see a degree of frustration kick in. It can be hard to feel like there is the need to take a slight pause from that instinct to simply purchase the next big gadget in technology tools and, in the first instance, ensure that the people, process and data components have been considered in detail to ensure the right factors are driving those technology purchasing plans:


Legal ops - people, process, data and technology

It's clear that the holy grail remains to improve productivity and make efficiency gains, but how best to achieve that while keeping things moving on a day to day basis? Clearly the business as usual work must keep on being supported, but focusing on that whilst trying to change a whole business's way of engaging with the legal team, alongside all the preparatory data analysis needed to strategically plan the route ahead, is not a task for the faint-hearted. 

Hence the benefit of having support alongside the existing team (either in a temporary consultancy capacity or as a permanent addition to the team) of someone with real focus and dedication to driving forward efficiency gains for the longer term. Specifically allocating quality time and resource to legal operations leaves others in the team to focus on what they do best; supporting the business and getting the day to day tasks achieved without unnecessary disruption or distraction. This approach also ensures that no-one is attempting to complete such a mammoth task off the side of their desk – never the right solution for something so critical to transformation success. 

Legal Ops Consultancy Services

As with so many aspects of the consumer sector, the scale and pace of change in this area of transformation needs to remain ambitious and challenging to keep ahead of the pack. Changing the way in which the legal team supports and enables the business to thrive is a transformation journey that takes clear project management skills matched with an ambition and willingness to keep exploring new opportunities for improvement, in order to gain that competitive edge over ones rivals.

At its most dynamic, we've now seen the role of legal operations develop into having responsibility not just for managing the legal spend, but a wide range of business critical impact points. Whether that is strategic planning aligned with the organisation's wider aims, embedding continuous improvements through process efficiencies, or driving decision-making through comprehensive data analysis together with planning and implementing technology investments. In short, ignoring this function could lead to missing out on significant gains for the wider business.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of these topics and what they mean for you and your business, please get in touch with our legal operations experts. 

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