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Corporate legal operations: Defining priorities for success

The four faces of the legal operations executive

Today’s legal operations management executives are multidimensional, bridging the world of operational efficiency and legal services delivery. Given their expanded role, there are four critical “faces”—strategist, catalyst, steward, and operator—that should be considered as these professionals chart their path to success.

Changing legal operations management

Focused on strategy, process, budget, talent, and technology, the corporate legal operations executive is increasingly operating at the highest and most impactful level of the legal function. In fact, 68% of surveyed legal operations executives report directly to the general counsel/chief legal officer (CLO).

With the expansion of the role, responsibilities, and growth of the operations team, corporate legal operations executives may be challenged to remain focused on the most strategic initiatives. As legal operations professionals continue to chart the path forward for this critical role, it may be helpful to consider the allocation of time between four critical “faces”: strategist, catalyst, steward, and operator.

The four faces of corporate legal operations

Although it may be helpful to think of the legal operations management executive’s priorities in neat categories, priorities often have components that span more than one face. The four faces exist simultaneously, and the legal operations executive’s ability to navigate each is interconnected.

Your corporate legal operations critical resources

Deloitte’s research indicates that three resources underpin an executive’s success in navigating the four faces: time, talent, and relationships.

Time: Time is generally not a commodity that exists in abundance for corporate legal operations professionals. When being pulled in so many directions, it can be easy to get off track or neglect longer-term priorities. But determining your priorities in advance and allocating time accordingly can enable successful execution of those goals and set you apart as a leader.

Talent: Whether you are a small or solo operations team or a large team, assessing and properly leveraging talent is a critical factor for success in the legal operations management role. For legal operations functions that have the ability to hire and grow their departments, it may be important to consider a wide variety of skills sets. For smaller legal operations functions, leveraging talent is still important, but these leaders may need to be more creative.

Relationships: Exceptional relationship-building skills—the ability to aptly navigate relationships, build rapport, work effectively with a diverse group of others, and cultivate a strong team culture—can be fundamental to the success of any initiative. Corporate legal operations executives will need to work through their relationships to help others understand the value of the legal operations strategy.

The road to corporate legal operations success

The role of the legal operations executive continues to grow in importance with an increasing range of responsibility within the legal function. To stay on track, it may be helpful to assess your allocation of time and regularly evaluate and select your top priorities. To be successful in the role, understand the four faces and where you need to focus your time and energy, execute on your top priorities, and hone your critical resources.

Get in touch

Lori Lorenzo
Research & Insights Director, Chief Legal Officer Program
Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP

Jessica Day
Senior manager, Chief Legal Officer Program
Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP

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