Janet Taylor-Hall, Chief Executive Officer, Cognia

To meet ever increasing pressure to become more agile and responsive to business needs, in-house legal functions are investing in transformation initiatives. However, all too often these initiatives disappoint or fail. We believe this is down to the lack of strategic alignment between the business, the legal function and legal operations.

Kathryn Williams, Head of Business Advisory, Cognia

In our first article we highlighted that, without alignment, attempts to transform can result in a series of tactical or point solutions. These don’t change the way legal works and can make the legal function more difficult to navigate than before.

How do you avoid this happening?

The key is to start with an understanding of your legal operating model. The model is a formal description of the legal services you provide, the roles, the skill sets and the tools and technology you use. It should also set out how you work with the business and how you want the business to access the services it needs. Just as important, it should determine the way you work with the legal eco system (law firms, ASLPs, consultancies, etc).

Whilst this sounds easy, many legal operations teams have evolved over time and there may be different models operating in business units or across geographies. Whether your business is centralised or federated, legacy or new, the investment in legal operations needs to support the business holistically and efficiently.

Where do you start?

  • Start by documenting your operating model. You may already have done this but it’s worth reviewing as the model can become out-of-date over time and may not reflect actual operating reality.
  • Once you have a picture of your operating model assess this against a maturity framework. There are many frameworks available and you will have your own preferences. This link takes you to a model we use with clients which is built on these critical components: Purpose, Talent, Ecosystem, Technology and Insight.
  • Engage your legal teams and your business stakeholders in the scoring exercise. Often there is a difference in views and this can be a really helpful starting point to build engagement with the business.

Once you’ve completed your assessment take some time to understand what is really the cause of maturity scores that are not as strong as you need them to be.

How should you interpret your maturity scores?

Here are some examples of pain points that we see when we work on maturity analysis:


Maturity outcome

Your legal specialists are spending time on low risk transactional work and the business is frustrated that this work takes too long. You have alternatives in place but they are not utilised consistently and effectively.

Possible cause

Is this a communications issue or is it because you have a tactical approach to the external market and the business and your legal teams don’t understand the delivery model and how to augment effectively with other providers in the legal ecosystem? A communications challenge can be a quick win and is relatively easy to address. Putting in place a strategy for augmenting legal capacity with external service delivery takes longer but will make a significant difference to the way you provide service and the way the business accesses the services.


Maturity outcome

You have technical solutions in place but they are not utilised and are perceived not to work.

Possible cause

Is it because you need to invest more in training and communication? Or have you automated complex processes that didn’t work in the first place and now need to be simplified?


Maturity Outcome

You have templates, playbooks, policies and procedures but they are not used, or they are not used consistently. Some of the artefacts are not up-to date and the legal team are not confident in them.

Possible Cause

The implementation was top down with insufficient investment in business buy-in and no support for upkeep and continuous improvement.

Once you have an understanding of your current maturity levels and the real cause of challenges it becomes easier to see the gap between where you are now and how you need to operate to deliver on the GC and business strategy.

As you build your road map of changes be realistic – if you are currently in the early days of legal ops you will not get to your preferred level of maturity quickly and you may not need to reach a 5/5 maturity level across each of the factors.

Additionally, right sizing the scale of the change and the investment is more likely to get you the budget needed. Placing small bets is often more likely to drive success over the long term than a big-bang transformation but this must be done in the context of an overall roadmap otherwise may not get you to where you want to go.

How will you know if you are succeeding?

  • Your legal teams understand the future roadmap and are enthusiastic advocates for changes and new ways of working.
  • Business stakeholders understand what you are trying to achieve and they participate in regular engagement sessions where you jointly discuss successes and challenges.
  • The business feels supported as you introduce new service delivery models and they understand where they need to go to access the services they need.
  • The GC is a pro-active sponsor of the roadmap, helps set the priorities and articulates the roadmap to the Board and C-Suite.

In our next article in this series we will be providing practical insights on how to move forward with your roadmap and design and drive a realistic transformation programme.

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