How to align legal work with business strategy

“Legal operations” is an area that seeks to improve the efficiency and reliability of both companies and their legal departments, and increase profits in times of crisis.

Both the legal sector and law firms are constantly evolving, either due to new requests from their clients or the emergence of technologies that can facilitate their legal work. Among the latest changes, especially in the western world, one must be highlighted: legal operations, or legal ops.

This new business model is described by Harvard Law School and Georgetown University Law Center professor Daniel Yi as a set of processes that allow legal departments to serve their clients in a more effective and efficient way through the application of new business techniques and practices.

In short, according to the expert, “Legal ops facilitate strategic planning and provide technological knowledge, as well as financial and project management skills, allowing legal professionals to concentrate on providing good advice without having to focus on other things.”

Yi, a board member of the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and guest speaker at the latest workshop organized by  IE Legal tech Innovation Farm—a technology exploration center created by IE Law School—continues, “legal ops seek to redefine the business of law, make it much more efficient and allow companies to continue growing without being weighed down by unnecessarily slow and cumbersome legal work.”

For Daniel Yi, the key principle of legal ops is to intervene to streamline a company and lower its legal costs. But this is only the start—it should also serve to change the way a company works.

Professor Yi sees this new model as a kind of peacekeeper between the side of the business that identifies risk, and the side that sees opportunities. “Legal operations have become a bridge that brings these two worlds together, trying to find a point of commonality and balance between the two perspectives, and thus enable profit generation.” For this reason, he insists that he is convinced that the only way to change the legal industry, and the work of the providers of these services, is to achieve the right collaboration between all parties involved.

Legal Tech Innovation Center | IE LawAhead

Regarding what legal ops should be and what they should offer, Yi indicates that the training of these professionals must be as broad as possible and should avoid specializations. “The key to having a good worker is that they have a wide range of knowledge and, above all, that they have great problem-solving skills.

Another important aspect is that this area becomes a guide for the adoption of appropriate technologies to streamline the legal work of the law firms themselves, or of the companies’ legal departments.”

In this regard, Yi indicates that “it’s good to embrace digital advances so as not to be at a disadvantage, but not all problems are solved with technology. By which these tools shouldn’t be implemented if they’re not going to solve the issue.”

Coming together to foster Innovation

The IE Legal Tech Innovation Farm is an open innovation center for inhouse departments, law firms and other institutions that seek to understand the potential of technology in order to innovate in their areas of practice.

Current members — PwC, Banco Santander, IBM, Allen and Overy, Consejo General de Registradores, Notaries, Iberdrola, Cepsa, Nestlé, and Deloitte– come together in this neutral space to experiment technology through practical workshops and labs,

“The main objective of this center is practical, technological exploration and the collaborative construction of legal tech tools in relevant areas for the sector. We foster knowledge and debate through workshops and explore technology through LABS. This year we have created an algorithm to fix dynamically prices in the legal sector,” explained Macarena Plaza, Director of the project.

In the last years, the Legal tech Innovation Farm organized workshops in different intersections of law and technology. From AI, blockchain and fintech to legal design, sustainability, Insurance and Online Dispute resolutions, the Center has covered main areas of law that are advancing at incredible speed.