Running Legal Like A Business - Wrapping Up

Running Legal Like A Business (PLI Press, 2021) by Connie Brenton and Susan R.Lambreth is the most thorough book on theory and practice of  legal operations in a dozen years (since Best Practices In Legal Management: A Comprehensive Guide, principal authors  Barry E. Jackson, CLM, CPA and Kimberly A. Swetland in 2010).  Legal Operations has evolved considerably in that time.

When I started this series in December 2021, I did not envision that it would take me almost 8 months to read this book cover to cover.  Over 21 chapters there was a lot of information worthy of reflection and action. I personally find that when I can apply new information in real-time I'm better able to absorb it. 

This book serves a different purpose than the Ops in a Box, Legal Edition kit.  The kit with 195 pages of content is designed to jump start your legal operations journey with grab-and-go templates and guides to help you get the job done and won.  This book focuses on ideas to broaden and deepen your practice of legal operations, but all the same includes substantial practical advice and checklists to help.

In Chapter 1, authors Connie Brenton and Jeffrey Franke set the stage for the chapters that follow. In concluding this read, I'd like to circle back to a few of the ideas they set out. 

They note that the emergence of legal ops has a lot to do with the evolving and growing role of the General Counsel. In some cases GCs and their teams have become a source of competitive advantage and revenue generation.  With the growing complexity of in-house departments legal operations roles were introduced to help manage the bandwidth. 

Changes in technology have also been a significant factor. The advent of communications technology, accelerated the expected timeframe for response. The introduction of legal-specific technologies created a need for tool administrators. 

The authors review the advent of alternative legal service providers coming into the former exclusive domain of law firms, and also touch on maturity and staffing model for a legal operations function.

While virtually all corp. law departments now have some form of legal operations functions, the authors note only a few innovative law schools currently include legal operations, or related topics such as legal project management and process optimization, in their core curriculum.  They note that law schools are under pressure for students to be graduated "with skills and knowledge that translate to better, more effective legal support right out of the gate." 

Brenton and Franke are strong proponents for integrating legal ops into the law training curriculum.  The CLI summer series for 2022 they founded wrapped recently with another strong line-up.  My own interest in legal ops was sparked by dinner table conversations with my father when he started teaching on the business of law at Emory Law School in the mid-1990s.  

As the authors note, the story of legal ops is one of "grit and passion." If that sounds like you, this book is essential reading.