What is legal operations?

“Legal Operations” is a rapidly growing field within the
legal industry that focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of legal departments.


Broadly speaking, ‘legal operations’ encompasses all
non-legal aspects of managing a legal team and delivering results.


In this article, we take an introductory look at legal operations: what it is, what the benefits are and who is doing it.

“Legal Operations” is a rapidly growing field within the legal industry that focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of legal departments.


Broadly speaking, ‘legal operations’ encompasses all non-legal aspects of managing a legal team and delivering results.


In this article, we take an introductory look at legal operations: what it is, what the benefits are and who is doing it.


Legal Operations involves applying business and technical practices to the delivery of legal work. Common areas of focus include:

Process Improvement

Streamlining legal processes and workflows to maximize efficiency, improve user experience, deliver better outcomes, and capture more / more useful data. This can be by leveraging tech (see below) but might also (or instead) be about improving the process itself and/or thinking about which people need to be involved and when.


Uncovering opportunities to leverage technology to improve legal work and surrounding processes.  Identifying the best solution/approach and working on procurement, implementation/roll-out, adoption and continuous improvement. Common uses of software within legal operations would include contract/matter management; document automation and to improve data collection/management.

Data Analytics

Using data analytics to gain insights into legal work and identify areas for improvement. Key sources of data will often be eBilling systems and matter management systems.

Project Management

Using project management skills to help the team plan and execute legal work. This may involve creating project plans, assigning tasks, tracking progress, and communicating with stakeholders.

Financial Management

Managing legal budgets and work to reduce costs while maintaining quality. This may include implementing alternative fee arrangements, negotiating with outside counsel, and tracking spending.


Legal Operations is broad in scope and there are many potential benefits associated with investing in Legal Operations initiatives and/or professionals.

However, if we were to group these into high-level buckets, most would likely fit into one or more of the following:


Streamlining processes, implementing technology, and using data analytics for more efficient and effective work, to improve turnaround times and reduce costs.


Implementing best practices, standardized workflows, and leveraging technology solutions to optimize the quality of legal work produced, leading to better outcomes and reduced risk.

Resource Allocation

Identifying areas for improvement and making data-driven decisions on resource allocation for increased effectiveness.


Helping legal departments to adapt to changing business needs and respond more quickly to new challenges and opportunities.

Collaboration & Alignment

Improving collaboration and alignment between legal and other departments and helping to align legal with the goals of the organisation at large.


Given its scope, legal operations can encompass a wide range of projects. However, there are some which come up more often or which tend to be early focus areas for legal departments looking to improve legal operations. For example:

Workflow Management

Efficient workflow management is crucial for improving legal operations as it reduces time and resource drain caused by manual processes, siloed systems, and communication gaps. A workflow management system helps capture and understand data for building a comprehensive legal operations roadmap.


See also:

Matter Management Systems for In-House Legal Teams: 5 Benefits

Legal Ticketing: 6 tips for success

Document Automation

Automating document production can be a quick win in legal operations, saving time and demonstrating the value of engaging in legal operations projects. Starting with straightforward, higher-volume documents can help streamline the process and support outsourcing of first drafts to the business.


See also:

What is contract automation and what are the benefits?

Self-Service Knowledge Resources

Creating self-service legal knowledge resources for the business can be a win-win outcome. It reduces low-value repetitive work for the legal team and empowers business users to access information quickly without relying on legal for every query.


See also:

Self-service technology: 3 ‘win-win’ use cases for in-house legal teams

Outside Counsel Management

Managing external legal spend is a key aspect of legal operations, involving renegotiating rates, redistributing work, and using technology for spend analytics and e-billing. Optimizing legal operations also involves streamlining engagement with external law firms and capturing related data efficiently, potentially reducing the need for external legal services.


See also:

Panel Management: the prize is in the process


As legal departments invest more in legal operations as a standalone function, the demand for dedicated legal operations professionals is on the rise. While the field is still relatively new and evolving, there has been an increase in full-time legal operations roles.


Many legal operations professionals come from a legal background, ranging from senior lawyers with experience in managing legal teams, budgets, and plans, to younger lawyers or paralegals with knowledge of day-to-day processes and technology.

However, due to the diverse nature of legal operations, professionals from adjacent fields like IT, finance, knowledge management, or project management are also increasingly transitioning into legal operations roles, leveraging their transferable skills.


As a technology company focussed on supporting in-house legal teams, we speak and work regularly with in-house professionals looking to leverage legal technology and improve legal operations more broadly.

In an evolving area such as legal operations, the opportunity to meet, learn from and be inspired by peers who have experienced similar challenges and may be able to share insights into how they have tackled them can be immensely valuable.


We were keen to help facilitate this, so we launched a virtual networking and insight sharing community called the Legalops Café, in late 2021.


Every month, our members come together for an hour to explore a topic of interest to the community. The sessions feature one or more guest speakers, Q&A, group discussions, polls and breakout rooms.


Examples of topics we have explored in the past include project management; knowledge management, effective business partnering; the data-driven legal team and outside counsel management, to name a few.


Reports from previous sessions can be found on our blog page.


The Legalops Café is open to in-house lawyers and legal operations professionals. To join or learn more, please click here: Introducing the Legalops Café

Learn more

If you want to learn more about how Tabled’s platform could help you to improve legal operations at your organisation please get in touch or request a demo using the sign up form below.



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