Tips for Legal Ops Teams to Avoid Layoffs This Year


Economic uncertainty surrounds us: Recession predictions seem to be picking up pace, while announcements of large-scale layoffs continue to surface. The legal industry—although arguably to a lesser degree than other industries—has also felt the effects of these economic ripples.

However, for those in corporate legal operations, the outlook appears to be brighter. Most respondents (70%) to the ACC CLO 2023 Survey listed legal operations as their top “strategic priority” for this year. Given this data, it’s reasonable to assume that those in legal ops would be less likely to be at the top of any layoff list. Nevertheless, it makes no sense to leave anything up to chance, and there are a few steps that legal ops teams can take to further decrease the chances of getting laid off.

Increasing efficiency—the top legal ops goal this year for in-house attorneys according to Bloomberg Law’s most recent Legal Operations & Technology Survey—should be the first item on anyone’s list.

To increase efficiency means, very broadly, to achieve better outputs with the same or fewer inputs. But how can legal ops teams improve efficiency even further when most 2023 road maps are already in full implementation mode? Here are three areas where you can focus your efforts to make visible gains in that space:

Spend: Finding an area where you can cut department spending without compromising quality will give you a quick efficiency win. For those who have already initiated such cuts, however, this path might be a bit trickier to navigate. The next prudent step would be to get the most out of every dollar you’re spending, by, for example, negotiating add-ons to existing services without increasing cost. Once you’ve exhausted the previous options, I suggest focusing on the return on investment of projects being implemented now or scheduled for later this year. Don’t forget to track and compare spend efficiency for these new projects to showcase those results.

Organizational Optimization: To better allocate existing company resources and to maximize results, take another look at the alignment between company structure, staff, workflows, and legal department goals. The most valuable and visible efficiency gains are usually found in areas where your stakeholders face greater challenges to achieve their goals. Focus on small changes with the highest impact, such as simplifying a document review process to eliminate going back and forth across departments. Tracking how those changes are helping to achieve department goals will give better visibility to your contributions and make you a more valuable team player.

Legal Tech: To add an efficiency focus to your next tech implementation project, follow a selection process that includes an analysis of inputs versus outputs. Setting efficiency targets from the start will help you move the needle in the right direction. For existing tools in your tech stack—such as billing and matter management—track and evaluate performance against department goals.

TThere’s no one-size-fits-all solution for increasing departmental efficiency, and a combination of these three areas, based on your needs, is probably the best approach.

Although legal ops is in a relatively secure position from a layoffs standpoint in 2023, focusing on efficiency—and keeping a record of that effort—will help teams navigate through these troubled economic waters.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Vendor Management Toolkit page, Legal Department Management & Optimization page, and Legal Technology page.

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