Marc Anderson, lead solicitor at Royal London Group, tells us what he believes law firms most need to know about the changing world of the in-house legal function to fully grasp the opportunity it presents for them
1 Changing faces – the business of legal operations
Not so many years ago, the notion of a paralegal sitting in an in-house legal team felt pretty revolutionary – how things have moved on! Of all the non-legal roles coming to the fore across in-house functions, legal operations managers are probably generating the most noise today.
This group is fulfilling a core role across many and varied in-house functions. The role sits at the heart of the team and is indicative of an increasing desire to see the traditional role of the in-house legal team challenged – and then improved – through business-minded change.
While the ever-expanding legal tech market has perhaps helped to accelerate the growth and acceptance of legal operations as its own specialist field, what shouldn’t be ignored is the greater focus legal operations managers are giving to the most important thing in the in-house legal function, namely the people.
2 So, what’s happening here?
More than ever, the powers-that-be now expect the in-house legal team to add as much value as it can, and most crucially to show that it’s able to demonstrate and evidence this value. This will most likely be achieved through lawyers acting as indispensable business partners, as opposed to a distant support function that is only engaged as and when absolutely necessary. At Royal London, the last couple of years have seen us effectively redefine how we operate by virtue of a new target operating model. The team, led by our incredible legal operations manager Jenny Hacker, have taken forward GC Fergus Speight’s vision and brought it to life through a focus both on how work is allocated and executed, and how the knowledge gained is shared across the team.
Again, the development of individuals sits at the heart of this, and our external legal partners have a large part to play in that too.
The capturing and presentation of data is probably the most effective way an in-house function can evidence its value to the company – and legal providers, where engaged, are in an advantageous position to support this
3 What’s in it for you? Data for us
There are plenty of opportunities for external law firms to be part of this evolving story. An in-house focus on strategically important and higher-value and/or higher risk work might, for example, see lower value, more regular business-as-usual activity needing to be packaged up and sent out to an external legal provider on a managed services basis. Support on bigger-ticket work, meanwhile, is a chance for an external legal provider to really align itself with a business through a more strategically-driven mindset in terms of delivery and pricing model.
However, the capturing and presentation of data is probably the most effective way an in-house function can evidence its value to the company – and legal providers, where engaged, are in an advantageous position to support this. Whether it’s a breakdown of legal spend and/or resourcing, market knowledge, or insights surrounding other trends, provision of timely data is exactly the type of value-add service in-house functions most value.