PLI Legal Ops Symposium 2023 - Part 1

Thank you to Kate Orr of Orrick for inviting me to return to the Practising Law Institute (PLI)’s Legal Operations 2023 Symposium.  I was joined on the first panel by legal ops veterans Frances Pomposo and Katie DeBord. Our topic was "Legal Ops as a Business Enhancer."

This is part one of two on key take-aways:

💡 "It's easy to take a one size approach but it's not going to land well." - Frances Pomposo 

Facetime and telling stories well is a big part of change management and legal operations. It's about people knowing us as individuals, as colleagues partnering to meet client objectives in a way with which they are comfortable.

Think about what hat you are wearing as a business partner and who you are interacting with. Your modes of operating should be curated based on audience.  Focus on customer service to be considered a value add from the outset. 

An advantage that legal has in-house is that we know the stakeholders really well and so are uniquely placed to bring them together around a table to resolve differences and build consensus. A lot of the time we are helping to unpack pros/cons and tradeoffs in a way that resonates with the business. 

💡 "By using OKRs we can be nimble and focus on the objectives of our company and make that alignment visible to our business partners and internal teams." - Frances Pomposo

OKR stands for objectives and key results. The objective is a high level statement or commitment or guiding principle that is motivating inspiring and clear. Key results are the tactical commitments that contribute to you achieving that objective. By sharing OKRs clients see that the legal or legal ops function is not a black box. Everyone can see the objectives were aiming for. We can realign as needed. 

💡 "Data-driven decision making is using statistics to understand what is more likely to happen in the future." - Katie DeBord

Start with common sense. Gather the data that will answer the questions your clients are asking. That tends to be questions along the lines of -

  • How long will it take?
  • What steps do we need to take?
  • Who is going to help me with this work?

Take baby steps, recognize and reward success. As you work your way down you'll get to more nuanced questions that require more data crunching and sophisticated models. If the people who need to input data trust you, they will do that even if they find the exercise annoying. Also, put the onus on your Law Firms to collect data on your behalf.

Be opportunistic. Work with a person who sees the value, create a small project, then present it. Slowly you will accumulate a coalition of the willing. Those who started slower out of the gate eventually catch up, and you develop a full program. 

"It is easy to get caught up in the narrative that because I am serving the client I don't have control and I'm just keeping the lights on so me investing time in data capture isn't on the top of my list. And that's a normal response we get from people. You really need to set the tone from the top that the GC needs to be able to have data driven conversations as any other C-suite conversation would be." - Frances Pomposo