With CLOC’s Las Vegas institute now in full swing you can expect a fair amount of legal operations related news, kicked off by a piece of LinkedIn-based research and a useful infographic produced by CLOC – ok, the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium – and contract review automation provider LawGeex, which you will recall we just wrote about thanks to their enormous $12m latest funding round.
The study showed that companies embracing the role, which can attract annual salaries of $300,000, include Fortune 500 firms (making up 21% of the sample), Fortune 1000 businesses (an additional 6% of those analysed), and top 500 listed UK companies (3%). While the UK leads the field outside of the US, we have a looong, long way to go to catch up. The majority of companies with legal ops directors are headquartered in the US (78%), but companies which have introduced the position are also based in 14 other countries, led by the UK (4%), Canada (3%), Netherlands and Switzerland (both 1.3%). (See the infographic below, which demonstrates this beautifully.)
The Anatomy of a Director of Legal Operations study analysed 235 profiles of current directors of legal operations on LinkedIn. We’re not convinced that the other findings will come as a big surprise to anyone but one of the key discoveries is that law degrees remain the most common route to becoming a legal ops director: 71% of legal operations leaders are lawyers who have successfully transformed their skill set.
We’re more surprised by the fact that the remaining 29% of those in the role have no formal legal expertise, although we assume that may flux as the role continues to mature. The analysis also reveals that 59% of those in the role are female.
Salary – we’re in the wrong job
According to Julie Brush, a legal expert in recruiting for the role at Solutus Legal, the legal ops role is “exploding” in demand, which is justifying high salaries and transforming the legal profession.
Brush says: “Right now companies are viewing this role at a director role typically. If you are at a director level and you have a certain number of years and experience you can get anything from $200,000 to $250,000 on the base, plus bonuses. If you are being brought in at a more senior level, senior level or VP, it will be closer to $275,000 – $300,000 range.”
The secrets of becoming a director of legal operations
The analysis suggests that the high-demand role is an alternative for lawyers who are interested in project and process management and consulting. It is also a dynamic role for those with a strong consulting and operations background. Aaron van Nice, director of legal operations at Baxter Healthcare, has held the role for 10 years at his current company and was previously director of legal operations for more than four years at Merrill Lynch. He graduated in business and holds a Certified Public Accounting Certificate.
Nice comments: “I think the key skills are around being a change agent and being able to get things done within the organization. Good legal operations professionals are the most successful when they bridge gaps between legal, IT, finance, and the business. The core prerequisites are financial acumen, project and process management expertise, and a consulting (continuous improvement) mindset.”
He continues: “The key difference in the past three years is the expansion of the role to many more things beyond vendor management, legal technology, and administrative processes. Today, legal ops is involved in lots of areas, some of them outside of typical legal work, such as privacy, cyber security, eDiscovery, compliance, and policy management. I think it has also expanded to much smaller departments than was the case 10-15 years ago.”