The Real State Of Legal Operations: What Does It Mean?

We share the results of the Legal Operations Health Check and how legal teams are evolving their Legal Department tools, policies and procedures.

The rise of corporate legal operations has been described as a “fundamental shift” ( and a “fundamental transformation” (Forbes).

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when industry thought leaders are calling for a revolution.

And it’s easy to push operational improvements to the proverbial back-burner when you have a giant stack of contracts to review – never mind those material disclosures, that major lawsuit or the 2021 budget the CFO needs in two weeks.

However, if you haven’t fundamentally shifted/transformed/reshuffled, you are not alone! And you should not be discouraged.

Today, Xakia is proud to share the results of the Legal Operations Health Check, the most practical look yet at how in-house Legal Departments across the spectrum of size, industry and geography are evolving their legal tools, policies and procedures.

The result is an e-book that compiles data from our Legal Operations Health Check survey, which was used by 349 Legal Departments in 37 countries. They weighed in on their adoption of 100 best practices in 10 categories; their answers provide a significant volume of data about the real state of legal operations in Legal Departments of all sizes, in various industries, around the world.

What we learned might surprise you – especially if, amid an onslaught of industry chatter about legal operations, you feel behind. Consider:

  • On aggregate, in-house Legal Departments achieved maturity in just three of the 10 categories: Financial Management, External Resource Management and Legal Team Management.
  • One-third of our respondents were in Legal Departments of five or fewer. They did not achieve maturity in any of the 10 categories, although they came closest in External Resource Management.
  • Legal Departments of all size struggled with Technology Tools and Data Analytics.
  • The sophistication of the primary business did not necessarily correlate with sophistication in the Legal Department: for example, in several categories Aerospace and Defense were among the lowest performers.

As we approach the fourth quarter of 2020, it’s a fine time to evaluate your Legal Department – on real terms – and brainstorm improvements for 2021. The Legal Operations Health Check can help you in three ways:

1. Find relevant benchmarks

Compare your Legal Department with teams of similar size, in your geographic region, in your industry. This will help you establish realistic goals and prevent you from unnecessary (and unfavorable) comparisons to the Googles of the world.

2. Get some ideas

The Legal Operations Health Check covered 100 best practices across the entire spectrum of the discipline. Each discipline is broken into small, discrete tasks; it’s far easier to act on specific projects, such as creating a playbook with contract positions, than abstractly thinking “We need to improve our workflow.” You can see which ideas have earned traction, and consider which may work for your team.

3. Keep some perspective

Again, we acknowledge that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. We are proud to present a practical look at legal operations in an effort to strip away the pretense. It’s OK to take an approach of crawl-walk-run. Look for simple solutions, and understand these may be temporary: to revisit the example above, if you create a basic contract playbook, then chart its use, that can help you learn what you want and need in contract process improvements – and then you can consider more advanced solutions, like contract automation tools.

Download the Legal Operations Health Check report today: learn where you stand, gather some attainable ideas, and prepare for a revolution on your terms.

Special thanks to our partners in the Legal Operations Health Check: Ascertus, InvestCEE, Law IT Group, Legal Operators, Norton Rose Fulbright and UpLevelOps.

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