Whether or not you believe a recession is coming or we’re already in one, one thing is certain: Uncertainty.
When the economy is uncertain, you can bet that companies are going to start tightening their belts. At first blush, this can seem like bad news for Legal Ops teams, which can be viewed as cost centers. But in reality, this could be the exact right time for Legal Ops to shine and demonstrate their cost-saving value. Especially since tons of organizations are cutting costs by bringing more work in-house. In fact, in-house spend has now officially outstripped spend on outside counsel.
Legal Ops sometimes gets a bad rap. It’s a relatively new function, and they’re the ones who come in trying to shake things up, asking for money to adopt new technology and strategies, and changing the way things have been done for years- or even decades. It’s like in Band of Brothers/real life when that Lieutenant showed up straight out of West Point to command a group of guys who’d already fought at Normandy AND Bastogne AND the Battle of the Bulge. (It should be noted that 1st Lieutenant Jones acquitted himself admirably during the war, earning 3 Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.)
Now, I’m not saying that running Legal Ops is the same as engaging in a world war, but attorneys can sometimes look sideways at Ops when they show up in the metaphorical trenches. There’s a question of whether they really know what they’re doing, and concern that they might try to streamline attorneys right out of their jobs. Not to mention concerns about how much all the changes being suggested are going to cost.
Yes, Ops is there to introduce new systems and change the way things are done. But the bottom line is that Ops is your friend: They want to do everything they can to make your job easier and help maximize your productivity.
They also won’t be making changes unilaterally. Any Legal Ops leader worth their salt will embark on a listening tour of the company before implementing changes. They’ll listen to concerns, pain points, and ideas, then try to find systems and tools that can make positive changes for everyone. And the concern that introducing new legal tools will automate people out of their jobs is unfounded. We’re a long, long way from fully automating the legal profession and installing robot attorneys, paralegals, or judges (plus Robo-Judge sounds like a sequel to Robo-Cop that would take itself way too seriously).
Ops is all about better utilizing the skills of the attorneys on staff. As Sean Houston of Heineken discussed on the latest session of our podcast, Inside Voices, every lawyer has enough to keep them busy if you automate the menial, repetitive tasks in their job. Ask lawyers what their favorite part of their job is and I doubt many would come back with “redacting things by hand” or “manual contract review.” Automating those menial tasks lets attorneys focus on more important things. Like, you know, crafting arguments and making TikToks.
“Cost center” is the ugly term you hear thrown around a lot when it comes to Ops. And yes, Ops will ask for money to implement the changes they think are best. But if you can see past that front-end cost, you’ll find that Ops typically pays for itself- And then some.
Consider this: Time with attorneys is expensive, and getting more so every year. The average going rate for partners in the U.S. increased from $738 per hour in 2021 to $749 per hour in 2022. For associates, it increased from $541 per hour to about $546 per hour. That means if you assume a document review rate of around 50 documents per hour, you’re paying outside counsel about $10/document for review.
Compare that to bringing doc review in-house: I happen to know of two companies, Twilio and Veolia, that both saved huge amounts of time and money by implementing a certain handy tool to assist in their discovery process. By automating discovery and bringing more of their work in-house, Twilio saved 1,470 hours and an estimated $360k as of April 2022. Veolia saved $258,250 just by eliminating hosting costs, and were able to have their discovery work completed by their in-house team of 1.
Those hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings are just from implementing one tool to address one problem. So just imagine the total savings your Ops team can incur by enacting multiple changes.
If you join us for our upcoming virtual conference, InHouse 2022, you’ll get the chance to hear more about the amazing things Ops can do. You’ll also get practical tips and takeaways on how to build and scale Legal Ops at your organization, as well as how to maximize Ops’ value and demonstrate all that wonderful ROI it’s going to generate. Grab your free passes to In House 2022 here.
Hope to see you there!