By Michele Gorman
A legal operations function is a significant behavioral change for a law department, and although there isn't a required rubric to follow when establishing one, getting buy-in from executives and the general counsel is crucial from the start.
Otherwise, experts say, the head of the operation won't gain the level of authority and support needed to make significant decisions and ultimately drive change.
"Once a department decides to hire a legal ops person, one of the most important steps is to create a mission statement, similar to any entrepreneurial venture, then identify the main challenges," said Mark Yacano, global practice leader of manager legal services at Major Lindsey & Africa LLC.
Amanda Brady, a partner at Major Lindsey & Africa and the global practice leader of the law firm management practice, said determining that level of influence will then direct the company to the type of core skills and attributes it seeks for the role. "If you choose to use a manager title, then they will more than likely have a more difficult time getting things done and getting people on their side and moving the needle because there's no perception of credibility," Brady said. "Whereas if you go in with a chief operating officer — and more legal departments are starting to use that title — it connotes authority and directive. So it will matter."
"While it might be politically easier to promote someone from within, if that person cannot have the impact that you need for them to have — even though they might be more easily accepted — they probably will not be as fully respected when it comes to change," Brady said. "We're talking about for most organizations a fair amount of change, and change management is hard."