Human Resources Management - Ops Team Roles
There are many permutations to the #1 Legal Ops Role, but at core the role is the COO for the law department, managing the business elements, or everything that is not the practice of law. Typically a person coming to the role will lead with a strength in one or more functional areas, or will have worked his/her/their way up in a functional line. For the most part the person in the lead role has a JD, MBA or CPA, but not always.
Ops in a Box, Legal Edition (OBL) focuses on the competencies of Strategic Planning and management of Finances, Technology, Projects and Change, Vendors and Human Resources Management. Metrics and Data Analytics is a theme across these areas, as is Communication. Of these competencies, HRM does not appear on either the ACC or CLOC maturity models, but the OBL HR materials are ones I have used in every legal ops job I’ve had.
Either you wear all of those hats yourself, or, as you build an operations team, the focus becomes either rounding out the skillset and expertise or adding hands to meet volume in a particular function. And as business priorities change, the job evolves, which requires one to maintain an agile learning mindset. Ability to adapt and grow is key.
Frankly, I still find it surprising that in all 3 of my roles spanning 13 years, establishing a global outside counsel program and electronic signatures has been a common thread. Apart from these themes, however, my positions have varied widely. If I had to summarize the emphasis in one word it would be finance for Viacom, compliance for Harman, and technology at Hearst.
Despite the variation in the role, however, I think there is some consistency in how legal ops teams are organized.
First, having a dedicated finance/accounting function is common to manage budgets and outside counsel rates and spend.
So is technology expertise for legal applications procurement, implementation and maintenance. This may be general systems function, or may come from a litigation perspective.
There is often an office services function responsible for facilities, management of legal assistants and coordination with human resources.
At Hearst we have dedicated professionals in all three roles. At other companies I have had a dotted-line management to some of these roles sitting in other corporate functions.
A data analytics focused person may sit in either finance or technology, or in a stand long knowledge management function. Depending on the company, there also may be functional lines within legal operations for contracts, litigation and/or compliance.
Ops in a Box, Legal Edition contains a sample ops org chart as well as job descriptions for a Legal Operations Director, Legal Operations Manager for Procurement or an Outside Counsel Program ,and a Legal Operations Manager for Technology/Project Management. The kit’s RFP scoring sheet can also be used for vetting job/position candidates consistently and more objectively. Simply update the section heading to the headings of the sample job descriptions included in the kit, and make each bullet point a criterion. For options on scoring see the video on RFP Scoring.