Legal ops, once exclusive to in-house legal departments, now moves to outside firms
Just when you’ve got your department to hire legal operations professionals, along comes a new trend. Bloomberg Law, as part of its “Bloomberg Law 2020” series, says that the discipline is spreading to law firms as part of their portfolio of services, both for themselves and their clients.
The idea of legal ops is pretty well establish in in-house legal departments, says Bloomberg. In fact, the 2019 Bloomberg Law Legal Operations & Technology Survey found that 95 percent of corporate respondents have a legal operations function. But here’s something new: The same survey found that 87 percent of law firm respondents have a legal operations function. And the news service said that icreased attention from industry groups, shifting law firm messaging around innovation, and demands from clients all suggest that law firm legal operations adoption will continue to increase throughout 2020.
Why is this happening? It hasn’t been without controversy. When the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) announced at its annual meeting in May 2019 that it was opening its doors to law firms, protests were heard. But a press release a couple of months later cited the demand for law firms to show their corporate clients efficient delivery methods and the increased investment by firms in legal operations staff and technology as reasons for the change.
Law firms have been hiring out of the traditional in-house talent pool. Earlier this year, Baker McKenzie promoted David Cambria to chief services officer. Cambria joined Baker McKenzie in 2018 as the firm’s first global director of legal operations. Bloomberg’s report said that the promotion sends a clear message to the firm and to the firm’s clients: the legal operations discipline is important, as is finding innovative ways to integrate it into the business.
Law firms have one particular need for ops professionals. Clients are demanding alternative billing arrangements, and it’s taken years for the firms to figure out how to do it. Hiring ops people will help them through this transition.