The Biggest Red Flags in Legal Ops and How to Navigate Them

Tips for Legal Ops success. How to choose the best solution and the secrets for successful implementation.

The Biggest Red Flags in Legal Ops and How to Navigate Them
Photo by Jacob Mejicanos on Unsplash

I touched on this topic very briefly recently and it resonated with many in the industry so I’m taking the opportunity to dig into this a little deeper. The pursuit of optimisation for legal departments (aka legal operations) is a landscape full of promise and pitfalls. The allure of efficiency gains and streamlined processes is certainly enticing. Then, there’s the reality of the path to get there, complete with solutioning, experimentation, implementation. Not to mention accountability throughout and thereafter.

It reminds of what a house would look like on Day One of Marie Kondo doing her thing. Then Marie would come in, apply her meticulous process and then ta-da, the house would be incredibly tidy. The whole thing would look almost effortless when you love tidying and organising as much as Marie does. That said, reality tends to be a little more complex than that. We can’t all (or maybe don’t want to) reorganise chaos as if we were Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. I mean, even Marie recently stated that her priorities have shifted since having her third child, and that organisation at all times simply isn’t top of mind. Instead, she’s realistic and prioritises according to what she values most and aligns her actions accordingly. Well, it’s kind of the same in legal ops.

So, what should you be looking out for? Read on for some common challenges and how to tackle them.

Say NO to siloed solutions

You want a solution that meets your business where cross-departmental conversations are already happening.

Solutions that cater to the needs of a single team, without consideration for the broader organisational context, can lead to inefficiencies and fragmentation. The adoption of tools that serve the entire business and facilitate cross-departmental collaboration is crucial. So, prioritise integration in choosing your solutions. This has the power to enhance coherence and efficiency across the organisation.

If it only works for one team, is it really working? Solutions that don't integrate across teams create more problems than they solve.

Also, favour scalability to minimise disruption. The financial and logistical hurdles of replacing legacy systems with new solutions can be a absolute nightmare. There’s great benefit in being pragmatic and favouring solutions that can coexist with and enhance existing processes. This strategy minimises disruption and allows for a more gradual and scalable implementation, reducing the overall burden on resources.

If it’s too complex, AVOID!

In the same vein, the complexity and user-unfriendliness of some tools can significantly hinder their adoption. Ensuring that new solutions are intuitive and require minimal training is essential. This is where you need to ensure you are grilling your vendors mercilessly during the sales process. If you’ve signed up to a demo, be methodical and intentional in your approach - testing the tool thoroughly, with particular attention to ease of use and effectiveness.

Intuitiveness is crucial for fast impact and adoption.

If you need hours of formal training to use a new software or product, this is usually a telling sign that implementation will bring way more friction that its worth meaning your ROI will be much slower to realise.

Cultivate buy-in nice and early to avoid that nasty adoption resistance

A common obstacle to the successful implementation of new tools is resistance from potential users. Here, it’s important to adopt a proactive approach to involve end-users in the decision-making process from the outset. Not least because it’s critical to truly understand the demographic and problem that you are solving for. You cannot solve any problem effectively without doing that (unless you just get lucky).

If end-users feel understood, they will trust in the solution that’s being presented (or at least give it a fair shot).

Also, by demonstrating the value and addressing concerns early on, you can foster a sense of ownership and investment in the success of the initiative, paving the way for smoother adoption.

Accept that you cannot solve everything at once, but instead balance urgency and importance

In a high-pressure environment where immediate issues often take precedence, strategic initiatives like legal operations or defensive AI deployment can be side-lined. Cultivating the discipline to prioritise long-term gains over short-term fixes is vital. Allocating dedicated time and resources to legal operations solutioning not only prevents the compounding of inefficiencies but also supports sustainable growth and innovation.

If you feel too overwhelmed by it all, consider addressing the skillset gap. It’ll 100% be worth the investment!

Successful and efficiently run operations is contingent upon the skills and capabilities of the team. The lack of necessary expertise can limit the effectiveness of new technologies. It’s really worth investing in strategic hires to fill and skills gaps. This means setting your best foot forward in laying down foundational work that, if done correctly, with fast track an organisation’s growth and success.

Don't put all your eggs in the same basket

It's important to ensure continuity beyond lonely solution champions. Ops initiatives can often depend on single individuals (aka the self proclaimed tech champions) within an organisation to advocate for change. This is also due to the involved process that is required to reach a decision point with a particular solution provider. Not many people develop the same level of familiarity with a tool as a person who has advocated to bring it on.

That’s why when these key individuals depart or move on to another area of the business, the momentum can suddenly fall off a cliff.

To avoid this, it’s important to build a broad base of support from the beginning, ensuring that the initiative is not reliant on a single champion but is instead embedded in the organisational culture, guaranteeing sustainability regardless of personnel changes. A good way of doing this (as covered in the section further up), is to secure that organisational buy-in so that there are multiple teams invested enough to make the initiative a success story.

Consistently celebrate the small wins to keep spirits up!

Many of us will be familiar with a phenomenon I like to call the "buzz death." The scenario pans out as follows: you spot a problem and identify a solution, you’re excited, you set out on the journey of solve said problem with high hopes. You talk to a multitude of vendors. You finally find the tech you want to buy. The procurement process goes through. You sign on the dotted lines. The deal goes through. You participate in a series of onboarding meetings. Then there’s this eery moment of realisation that now begins the next stage of actually generating meaningful impact (now, all this assumes the right tool has been procured - a minefield in itself and one to tackle in a future piece!).

The main reason for why this part can be challenging is because of how many external factors are involved in generating success (i.e. you need the tech to do what it said it would do, you need user adoption, you need to be solving the right problem in the right way). That is also the stage that will yield the biggest reward because that’s when you start to see real results.

The way to avoid the “buzz death” is by being super intentional about implementation. This means breaking it down into the smallest steps, tracking progress and celebrating that progress incrementally. There is such power in recognising and celebrating small wins - it fuels momentum and keeps individuals/teams motivated and focused on the long-term goals.

The Opportunity?

In spite of the challenges, there is incredible opportunity. With a strategic approach, these obstacles can be navigated successfully. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement, building a resilient support network, and choosing inclusive, intuitive solutions, legal departments can realise their full promise and impact.