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Important Takeaways for Legal Operations in 2021

After spending almost a year to adapt to the new order of things in 2020, legal has shown that they are not as resistant to innovation as everyone thought they were.

The numbers gathered by ThomsonReuters attest to that, as 2021 in nearing its end:

  • 52% of legal departments reported increased use of technology
  • 34% increased their legal technology budget 
  • 43% started handling more work in-house
  • 80% of surveyed companies use electronic signature
  • 27% want to procure document workflow automation in next 24 month

These stats wouldn’t be that compelling if not for the legal operations. 

80% of legal departments have confirmed the presence of at least one legal operations manager amidst their ranks in 2021. Compare that to only 56% in 2017.

Before writing this blog, we researched the industry leaders and gathered the key takeaways for  legal operations in 2021.

In case you haven’t done so yet, we suggest you adopt these as best practices for your team.

Data-backed management

Operational and financial strategies became a key focus for legal ops in 2021. Controlling the outside legal spend is number 1 priority for 87% of legal departments

Reducing the outside counsel means increasing internal performance. Here’s what legal operations managers did at McKinsey:

  • Started managing legal budget for internal & external spendings
  • Established dashboards with KPIs and key metrics to track
  • Automated billing & spend approval

This created an ecosystem, where everyone is able to track their performance, know the status of their legal projects, and create value for business instead of being a financial burden.

Irresistance to technology

After having to spend a year working remotely, legal departments stopped undervaluing legal technology such as contract automation software, eBilling, and CLM

Yet, some lawyers struggle to choose what’s right for their scope of work. Here’s what a legal operations manager can do to adopt technology that fits their legal team’s needs:

  • Assess and ensure smooth adoption of legaltech, such as document automation software
  • Make sure that the software helps lawyers generate more value and become better partners to the board
  • Use technology to balance the amount of in-house workers, ensure fast onboarding for new employees

74% of legal departments want to use technology to simplify workflows. This will allow their lawyers to allocate time for solving more sophisticated problems.

Legal operations in 2021 make sure they do just that.

Talent management

Ability to nurture, educate, and retain legal talent is also a key factor to your department’s success. 

By bringing legal professionals together, legal ops manager’s job is to help them reach new heights and succeed together as a team. 

This is what the industry leaders do to make sure their talent stays with the company and continues to grow:

  • Develop a learning curve for each person on your team
  • Outline must-have skills and a career growth potential
  • Establish training, onboarding, and development curriculums

With the right people in the right places, an innovative legal department has no chance to steer off the course. It becomes a success machine, where every gear is well-oiled and drives the company towards a mutual goal.

Knowledge management

Absence of a knowledge base has stalled the evolution and growth of legal operations in 2021. Best practices, key contract clauses, updated contract templates all have to be organized in a system that makes them easily accessible for updating and usage.

Below are the things you can do to establish an efficient, easily accessible knowledge base:

  • Adopt new approaches to gathering and cataloguing legal knowledge 
  • Create clause playbooks and contract repositories
  • Develop corporate Wiki pages and go-to knowledge centers

Organized ways of accessing and using the information has increased productivity and reduced the risk of non-compliance and errors in contracts and operations.

Teamwork made the dreams work

Lack of effective communication, mentoring, and collaboration doesn’t go well with innovation. Your company is a team, and it must work together in an inclusive environment if your goal is to grow in years to come.

Here’s what top legal operations in 2021 should include in terms of building a collaborative environment:

  • Promoting a supportive culture where a lawyer’s mental health is priority number 1
  • Offering education opportunities both in- and outside of your office
  • Improving communication and transparency on a company scale

In 2021, there’s plenty of software for law firms and legal departments that help you keep in touch from any location. Help your legal and business teams work together and drive your company forward.

Wrapping up

COVID and the post-pandemic adaptations have uncovered the true value of legal operations in 2021. Hopefully, that’s just the beginning of a new era for legal.

Here’s what we expect to see in the upcoming benchmark reports in early 2022:

  • Even more use of technology
  • Increased collaboration
  • Better performance
  • Effective legal risk management
  • Lower legal spend
  • Higher-impact work
  • Faster adoption of new employees
  • Improved customer service
  • Higher overall job satisfaction

At AXDRAFT, we want to help you adopt innovation and evolve with close to zero friction.

Visit AXDRAFT website and check out our workflows in an instant demo—get your ready-to-sign NDA in just 57 seconds.

Want to free up to 40% of your agenda for thought-driven tasks? Check out QuickDocs and see the value that self-service document automation brings to your team.

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