Legal departments incorporate non-legal expertise

By Sharon Golec on Tuesday, May 12th 2015
Management des Directions Juridiques

General Counsel are expected to run their departments as efficiently as any business unit, tracking spending and return on investment with the help of analytical tools such as data mining. The skills required are not taught in law school and few lawyers acquire them. How are legal departments in large companies adapting?

First, a reminder of the trends. In its "2014 IMPACT Benchmarking Report," Huron Legal surveyed legal departments of 75 large U.S. companies and identified the following trends:

  • More detailed analysis of legal spend: 57% of legal departments surveyed report budgeting by project phase and type of task, as opposed to by setting a global budget for fees and expenses.
  • Analytical data analysis is growing: 57% of legal departments use it, in addition to specific technology solutions for contract management, e-billing, etc.
  • 65% of very large companies (+10 billion $ in revenue) employ a law department operations manager (COO).

The missions of a legal department COO typically include mining data (outside counsel spend, matter management, workflow) to identify areas for improvement, tracking collective performance indicators (KPI), selecting and implementing technological solutions, in particular to enhance knowledge management, implementing legal department processes, overseeing the technical aspects of law firm panel management, and coordinating department-wide events.
Currently, only a handful of very large French companies have created this role, but the trend seems destined to continue as General Counsel report high levels of satisfaction with the added value of the legal department COO function.
This role represents a new career opportunity for lawyers who are technologically inclined and possess strong analytical skills and the ability to work on a team.

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