Defining Legal Ops Career Path – Update #2

This is the second update for the ‘Defining Legal Ops Career Path’ project which reflects what we have been doing on the project and some of the output so far.

If this is the first time you have heard about the project, I would recommend having a look at the following page to get more of an idea about its aims, what it aims to deliver and who is involved. In a nutshell though, it is around 80 legal ops professionals from around the world hoping to define (and possibly standardise) the legal operations career path.

At least half of the groups involved have now come together and laid down their thoughts about what they consider legal ops to be (and what it isn’t), as well as taking a look at what roles should be included and what are the current issues in the space. It’s been interesting to see what has been discussed so far. We’re just in the process of collation now. When all the teams have finished the theme we’ll then bring everyone together to discuss. However, these are some of the issues people have flagged so far:

  • Inconsistency in role duties, description and pay
  • Not clear what qualifications are required
  • GCs not understanding the long term value in role
  • Feeling like the role is ‘nice to have’ or a mere ‘value add’ for clients
  • Lack of clearly defined career path / options
  • Definition of legal ops is too broad
  • Lack of understanding of role at market and firm level
  • Lawyer vs Non-Lawyer dynamic

Feel free to get in touch with us here if any of the above resonate with you from your own personal experience.

The definition of legal operations being too broad is definitely an issue from a marketing perspective though. There are quite few facets to it already and on top of that at least 13 different definitions of what it is on the first couple of pages of Google alone (see here). If it is to be defined as a career path in its own right then what it actually is needs to be clearer – ideally with a simpler one or two sentence description that everyone can use. Once we’ve done that then it’ll be time to consider standardising the plethora of different roles out there into something that perhaps can be standardised by setting (similar to how lawyers are described in-house vs private practice).

Legal Operations tends to be defined currently with in-house in mind but there are others that do similar work either within their own organisations (i.e. law firms) or advise others on aspects of legal operations (i.e. consultancies). The foundation for a more defined Legal Operations takes into account all three settings and the work they carry out. The starting point can be found here but the aim is to simplify these further – perhaps by categorising these activities into broader chunks like “Strategic”, “Making Improvements”, “Managing Change” and “Mitigating Risk”. With that simplification comes a clearer, snappier definition.

It’s a work in progress and I’m thinking out loud a little – however, if you would like to feed in or get involved please do reach out to me or add feedback to the Mural board above. The end of the first theme was due to end at the end of this month but is likely to end at the end of next month to allow all groups to finish. There’ll be another update around that time which should include what we all agreed re definition of legal ops!

Marc May

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