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Legal Operations, Law Firms and the Future of the Legal Marketplace

By Victor Fonseca posted 05-05-2021 17:06


Please enjoy this blog post authored in both English and Portuguese from Victor Cabral Fonseca, Innovation Specialist, TozziniFreire Advogados.

In his book “Tomorrow’s Lawyers”, Prof. Richard Susskind introduces us to what he calls the “more-for-less challenge”. According to the book, which analyzes current transformations in law and its effects on the future, there is a growing pressure in legal departments and law firms for stricter cost controls and greater efficiency in carrying out legal matters. This scenario of complex demands and increasingly scarce resources to solve them requires organizations to be creative in thinking about new ways to conduct legal practices.

In this sense, one of the most obvious responses is the adoption of new technologies as a north to resolve the efficiency dilemma in law. However, there is much more to be addressed than simply bringing new tools such as artificial intelligence or automation, for example. It is precisely in this context that Legal Operations, one of the most important concepts for the legal market today, arises.

The idea behind Legal Ops is essentially simple: legal professionals, given their high degree of specialization, should focus on practicing law. Other tasks related to financial management, marketing, technology, and vendor management, for example, should be performed by dedicated professionals, not necessarily with legal education. Thus, interdisciplinarity and multifunctionality are finally welcomed to the context of companies and firms, represented mainly by ‘non-legal’ professionals who actively participate in the delivery and decision-making.

As expected, at first this idea gains strength mainly in the corporate environment, client side, where companies fight a daily battle to reduce costs of legal departments and their respective activities. By relying on the experience and training of multidisciplinary professionals in the planning and management of legal demands, as well as technological tools and focused methodologies, a General Counsel is able to better plan his routine, freeing time at lawyers’ schedule so they can focus further on more complex legal work.

However, law firms, as legal service providers, also feel the effects of the increasingly frequent use of Legal Ops by clients. Such organizations can understand Legal Ops not just as users of its precepts but also from the perspective of new opportunities to improve their relationship with clients.

Initially, we remind you that the practices related to Legal Ops are not exclusive to companies. Although they are especially effective for in-house legal demands, it is known that external lawyers, as suppliers, can also incorporate interdisciplinary activities to the delivery of services. Not for nothing, firms have studied and invested in topics such as legal project management, use of technologies to increase efficiency, data analysis and analytics, knowledge management, among other subjects closely related to the best core subjects in the field of Legal Operations.

In addition to using the idea, it is essential that firms prepare themselves for what it does in order to create a new reality for the relationship between firms and their corporate clients. The existence of a Legal Operations department (or the simple use of its concepts) at the hiring side is capable of significantly shift expectations and the profile of the legal services consumer. The work recipient is no longer necessarily another lawyer; there may be, at some point, the involvement of professionals from other fields. The services must then be thought and delivered holistically, ensuring efficiency, comprehensibility and helping companies to bridge gaps between internal legal departments and business areas (finance, marketing, etc.). For firms, this ends up creating an urgent need for adjustments in the delivery processes, in client relationship channels or even in the technical language used to pass information.

Due to its extensiveness, the concept of Legal Ops has been developed in firms through structured innovation initiatives, designed to look, plan and support legal practices in a broad and multidisciplinary way. It is not enough just to think about how to use new technologies in services - it is necessary to ensure the implementation of the right tools in the right activities, in addition to aligning these objectives with other efforts, such as cultural (training, knowledge, communication) and methodological (legal design, projects, platforms, data analysis).

Changing is not easy, but it is necessary. With Legal Ops ideals gaining more and more strength in the legal environment, companies optimize their demands and tend to require firms an adaptation pari passu with their new needs. While it transforms law considering its people, processes and technologies, this new concept represents the future of the legal marketplace and makes it even more complex and competitive. Professor Susskind, trying to present us with the future, got it right again - and what was then a prediction, it has now become the present.

Here is the Portuguese version

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