The humble legal operations team has become increasingly important to in-house counsel of late. A relatively recent phenomenon — at least in terms of the terminology, though arguably legal operations itself has been around for much longer — the legal operations professional takes a data-driven approach to making governance, compliance and risk management much more efficient.
Often described as the engine of an in-house legal team, training legal operations staff is essential given the fast-growing nature of this role. It’s seen as a multidisciplinary function, which means it has unique training needs, and only when training legal operations staff on a regular basis can you help to ensure the role’s promised efficiencies and optimizing of service delivery can come to fruition.
Entity management best practices include the need to keep your staff up to date with the latest practices as well as current rules and regulations. This means that training your legal operations staff — or any staff involved in governance and compliance — should be a regular thing. Consider at least an annual rollout of training to both update skills and keep lesser-used skills in practice.
What to consider when training legal operations staff
To help companies who are investigating training legal operations staff, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC), which introduced the legal operations role as an industry-recognized profession, has developed 12 core competencies to represent the areas of focus that “every legal operations department must manage to have a disciplined, efficient and effective legal operations function.”
Those companies looking at training legal operations staff would do well to consider these core competencies — which are sorted into mature-, foundation- and advanced-level competencies — as a logical starting point for developing that training program. We detail these competencies below, though CLOC itself goes in-depth on what these mean and has a plethora of resources for members.
Entity management best practices: CLOC’s core competencies for training legal operations staff
Legal operations staff generally manage the budget for the legal department. This means they need to be able to track accruals and forecasting, and to work with finance to identify spending trends as well as potential cost savings and efficiencies. When training legal operations staff, then, you must ensure there is both more than a basic level of financial business knowledge, and a willingness to work across functions to establish the full picture for financial management.
One thing the legal operations professionals can take under their wing is dealing with vendors, from contracts and rates to negotiations and billing. This means training is needed in negotiation skills, in contracts management, and in how to review and run the whole contract life cycle.
The legal operations team also needs to be the conduit between all departments, such as HR, IT, finance, governance, risk management and more — anyone who will touch the compliance cycle should have a great relationship with legal operations. Training should include organizational understanding, as well as instilling knowledge of how to deal with various types of people with different working styles.
Technology and process support
As the “doers” of the in-house legal department — the people who keep the wheels spinning — legal operations professionals must have a long-term technology roadmap to help drive efficiencies in the organization. Modern compliance technology can support legal operations with processes such as contract management, esignatures, board and compliance management, entity management and more. Training on these systems — preferably a single system that can handle the majority of entity management best practices — must be kept up to date.
Service delivery and alternative support models
The nature of the legal operations role is, of course, to support the delivery of compliance and governance processes. This means training should include honing the ability to spot inefficiencies and poor processes, and the ability to rectify these in the best possible manner.
Organizational design, support and management
Likewise, training legal operations staff to be able to deliver improved team performance by creating a culture of growth, development, collaboration and accountability is integral to entity management best practices.
And while it’s important that the legal operations professionals have strong communication skills in the way they work with others internally and externally, they should also have the skills to work collaboratively across the legal ecosystem to create consistent processes, and to publish regular departmental communications such as all-hands calls.
Training legal operations staff should include in-depth data management techniques, as data analytics is such an important part of this team’s role. The legal operations professional should be trained in collecting and analyzing relevant data from department tools and industry sources. They must be able to define objectives, provide metrics and dashboards, and know how to interpret the data to improve the organization.
Litigation support and IP management
CLOC believes that “mature” legal operations departments should be bringing these professionals into supporting roles for e-discovery, legal hold and document review. Technology can play a role here, as can robust training and upskilling.
These essential legal operations professionals, once settled into their roles, can become the font of all knowledge when it comes to the organization’s legal, governance, compliance and risk management positions. They should be trained in how to create key templates, policies, processes, memos and collecting the organization’s experience and knowledge into a central repository for all to access.
Information governance and records management
Supporting the knowledge management competency is information governance and records management, again a key part of a mature and robust legal operations department. These individuals should be trained in how to create these systems, how and why to review and adapt processes and policies, and so on.
Finally, legal operations professionals can take the burden of strategic planning administration away from those who must do the big-picture thinking. Ensure training legal operations staff includes both the organization’s preferred way of strategic planning, but also industry-leading practices for project management, data analysis and more.
Don’t forget technology when training legal operations staff
Technology and process support is one of CLOC’s 12 core competencies for legal operations staff, and it’s important not to underestimate the importance of technology to increasing efficiencies within in-house legal departments and operations.
Much of these entity management best practices can be driven through a central repository, such as an entity management system. By creating a single source of truth, training legal operations staff can focus less on the administrative side and more on those competencies that CLOC deems advanced or mature. Much of the legwork of knowledge and information management, communications, data collection and cross-functional alignment can be streamlined by using a cloud-based system, such as Diligent’s Governance Cloud,
Diligent Entities enables legal operations staff to store entity information, documents and organizational charts in a highly secure format to create a single source of truth, and to ensure the right information gets to the right people at the right time in order to complete routine business processes.
Get in touch and request a demo to see how Diligent’s suite of governance and compliance technology can support your in-house legal operations to achieve entity management best practices.