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Just Grow Up! Understanding and Overcoming the Roadblocks to Law Department Maturity

May 18, 2022

law department consulting legal operations efficiency technology adoption maturity model

Ever wonder how you stack up? For some – maybe even many – of us, it can be hard to resist the impulse to compare ourselves – our accomplishments, abilities, and the like – to other people. Comparisons are especially helpful in assessing maturity, whether of people, processes, or organisations.

A case in point is assessing your law department’s maturity against other law departments. Where do you stand relative to your peers? Are you cutting edge? If not, what stands in the way of joining that cohort? What can you do to improve how you measure up?

To answer those questions, we have a helpful set of recent data, thanks to the results of Elevate’s “Getting Sh*t Done: Workshop Efficiency for Your Law Department” session at the 2022 CLOC Global Institute. Our poll of the participants revealed how law department leaders see their organisation’s maturity, what they believe is holding them back from becoming more mature, and what they are doing about it.

The survey asked participants to self-assess their law departments in five categories:

  1. Alignment with Business Objectives
  2. Resourcing
  3. Spend Management
  4. Operations and Infrastructure
  5. Technology

The chart below details the results. If your law department has yet to make real progress in any categories, the biggest takeaway is that you are lagging 80% of your peers. Moreover, the results show that law departments are significantly more mature in Spend Management than any other area.

Given that, the key question becomes, Why? What is holding law departments back?

The survey responses varied widely according to each category. However, across several categories, Resourcing Strategy, Spend Management, and Legal Operations and Infrastructure respondents, cited the lack of maturity of solutions as the biggest impediment to progress. In the Technology category, there was essentially a tie with three other issues (“Lack of Knowledge of Existing or Useful Technology,” “Over-Reliance on Enterprise Technology,” and “Tech Bought But Not Adopted”), each cited by approximately 20% of the respondents.

Ironically, even though many legal operations professionals claim that relevant technological solutions remain works-in-progress, law departments continue to purchase and deploy technology to reach the next level of maturity. Yes, the most oft-cited solution was “hire more legal operations professionals” – but take that with a grain of salt; the survey participants were attendees at the flagship event of the leading consortium of corporate legal operations professionals. The second-most-cited solution was “buying technology.” However unsatisfied law departments are about the state of technology, that is not keeping them (or at least a substantial portion of them) sitting on the fence.

Overall, several points are clear. First, if your law department is yet to begin focusing on maturing, you are falling behind your peers. Second, more and more law departments have mastered spend management; if your department has not, you are behind the curve. Third, your peers are not waiting for technology to mature; the longer you wait, the further behind you will be.

If any of those points are cause for concern for you or your law department, don’t panic!  That your peers have made progress means that you can, too. The solutions and expertise exist to get you to the next level of law department maturity – you just have to take advantage of what is out there.

Enlisting the help of consultants, working to deploy and adopt technology, and a variety of other actions have important roles in helping law departments “grow up.”

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