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How and Why You Should Measure the Legal Operations Maturity of Any Legal Operations Department

By Daniel Acevedo Sanchez posted 07-07-2021 21:43


By: Daniel S. Acevedo-Sánchez[1]

Email: | LinkedIn: /danielacevedos

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact moment in which the law service industry, as we know it today, was born. But if we could at least aim to establish a particular range of dates, this would be the period between the beginning of the first and the end of the second industrial revolution, which is between 1850 and 1910.

Sadly, our profession chose a quite different path from what was happening in the general economy, and instead of adopting the best practices of business management that figures like Frederick Taylor were starting to discuss, we decided that it was more important to separate the concepts of business and profession (as if they were mutually exclusive), which led to the creation of the Rule of Independence of Lawyers included in Rule 5.4 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct from the American Bar Association.

We can credit to this rule, albeit partially, the existence of some undesirable attributes that we have as a profession (as the lack of innovation), the most difficult attribute being refraining from creating standards for the industry. We would not have wireless connectivity via WiFi, Bluetooth, or even internet access had it not been for the creation of common standards that allowed us to have a landmark for our business processes and thus, having the ability to measure how far is my operation regarding the expected standard.

The most important revolution for a legal team is not in implementing artificial intelligence or blockchain, but in using common industry standards for the effective management of the legal department.

Using reference frameworks to measure the legal function maturity

“Legal operations” is a concept that is still being formulated, although the most accepted definition is the one proposed by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), which establishes that “legal operations are a set of business processes, activities, and the professionals who enable legal departments to serve their clients more effectively by applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal services”. Even though this is a somewhat broad definition, CLOC restricts this set of processes, techniques, and tools to twelve functional areas (the CLOC Core 12), which allows legal teams to have a reference framework that helps them establish what can be implemented as capacities for the effective management of the legal department.

In other words, reference frameworks give us a standard and universal measurement regarding the expected maturity level of a legal team. In this sense, if we want to establish what is our current maturity level in legal operations, the easiest way to do this measurement is to compare our current processes to whatever is established in the reference framework.

At EY Law Legal Operations Services we created a reference framework to measure the maturity level of a legal department. We have named this model “EYM3”, and it is inspired by process analysis models such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) of the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), an international professional association focused on IT governance and standards.

Our EYM3 has four dimensions of analysis: (i) legal services delivery; (ii) resources management; (iii) technology coverage; and (iv) legal function analytics. These dimensions integrate twelve development factors that allow us to analyze the internal processes that we consider as “essential” for the proper operation of a legal department. For example, in the “contract management” development driver, which belongs to the “legal services delivery” dimension, we asked if there are any established procedures for the reception of requests for contract drafting; if such procedures exist and use templates for the creation of contracts; if they exist and all the legal team is aware of the centralized repository of the ongoing and finalized contracts; etc. Depending on the provided answers, our team rates the maturity of the development driver in three levels: (i) Enhanced; (ii) Defined; and (iii) Ad-Hoc, and depending on the rating and the reached level, it can be proposed to develop action plans to further the continued improvement of the analyzed development driver.

One final thought: even though there is no secret formula for the implementation and measurement of the capacity of the legal operations in a legal department, a good way to start is by using a reference framework (whether this is from CLOC, ACC, or the EYM3 model). A reference framework provides us with a defined guide to establish our current operation level and paves the way towards whatever improvement is needed in the legal processes.

[1] Daniel is a senior manager at EY Law and leads the legal operations services practice group for Latin America North. He has almost a decade of experience leading organizational transformation projects for legal teams in multiple Latin American jurisdictions from Mexico to Argentina. Before joining EY Daniel was the strategic projects and pricing manager at Galicia Abogados S.C. (Mexico), head of the business transformation area at Gómez-Pinzón Abogados (Colombia), head of the quality and projects department at Posse Herrera Ruiz Abogados (Colombia) among other positions. Daniel is a renowned professor and lecturer on multiple topics associated with legal operations such as legal project management, legaltech, data analytics, strategic planning, process architecture, among other topics related to the future of law as a profession.

Daniel is a licensed attorney and holds a master's degree in engineering with an emphasis on business architecture and has multiple postgraduate studies in project management, architecture and process administration, software development, among others.