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The Necessity of the Legal Ops Leader for the CFO and CRO

How legal ops leaders can unlock unexpected value for enterprise organizations.

The Rise of Legal Ops

When the economy is tough, or a company is stagnant, or when a department is stuck in second gear, an interesting personnel shift often begins to appear. Think about three scenarios:

Scenario 1

Challenge: A CRO isn’t getting maximum value out of a seller finding new accounts.

Solution: Re-allocate part of their time to finding growth in managing existing accounts.

Scenario 2

Challenge: A supply chain lead isn’t getting the savings their CFO demands from their transportation network.

Solution: Start an initiative to optimize the cost of the handoff between transportation & inbound warehousing.

Scenario 3

Challenge: A Chief HR officer has slowed hiring, which means their talent sourcing team has excess capacity.

Solution: Utilize the time spent on sourcing/hiring to create talent programs which build the same talent from within.

Notice the trend? In all three scenarios, revenue, savings, and optimization come from using existing talents and skillsets to optimize resource usage across operational and departmental silos. By design, legal departments are usually the most siloed teams in a company: Their job of remaining impartial to protecting the interests of a corporate entity, its employees, and its shareholders often requires a certain level of detachment from those trying to drive profit or cost savings.

That said – what about the scenarios where someone in the legal silo wants to help provide broader business value? Or when they know that their knowledge of contracts and legal issues also helps them understand the associated commercial, financial, and personnel operations buried in the documents that they work in every day? When CFOs and CROs are grasping at straws trying to hit top and bottom lines, the person that can help save them could be their legal ops leader.

The Legal Ops Leader in Context

The relative recency of legal operations as a career is not new, but the recent soaring interest (19th on the fastest growing roles in the U.S) actually seems to go hand-in-hand with #1 job on the list – Chief Growth Officer. Companies need strategies that help them build and grow in rough or stagnant job environments, and leaders in charge of spend and revenue are having to work harder than ever to locate avenues for growth.

Just how are legal operations leaders proving their worth to the bottom and top line? Three strong examples from our clients include:

  1. A legal ops leader that created decision criteria and logic for prioritization of commercial contracts leveraging contract data and a Contract Lifecycle Management (CLM) tool, leading to faster contract velocity, a higher contract execution % and ultimately increased topline growth & sales velocity.
  2. A contract manager that is leveraging custom AI modeling to source data around accessorial fees and price increase policies in thousands of legacy contracts, unlocking a revenue stream via data that hasn’t historically been captured and will result in millions of dollars in potential revenue.
  3. A commercial risk operations specialist working in conjunction with their legal team to standardize the onboarding process for subcontractors, leveraging an automated CLM workflow to send updated onboarding documents & save hundreds of administrative hours while driving compliance.

What did all three of these scenarios require? Someone with a strong understanding of the contents of contracts and a willingness to work collaboratively across silos to achieve an outcome. Not everyone holds a law degree (in fact, only one of the three legal ops leaders mentioned above has one), but all have a respect and keen interest for the value of contractual agreements.

Technology and Legal Ops

Another reason for the growing importance of legal operations: In 2024, legal operations leaders have newer and more powerful enterprise technology to draw on. In some cases, it’s been dedicated legal technology solutions like matter management software or streamlined legal spend trackers, which have helped in-house counsel drive a greater level of control within their silo for some time. More recently, those tools have not been siloed to “legal tech” at all, but extended to data-centric enterprise software tools that can uncover value across the organization.

Between their increasing prominence at enterprise organizations, their strategic insights, and their goal of driving value from contracts, it’s not surprising that legal operations leaders have been able to get so much value from newer technology. This has even extended to AI, with new capabilities finding willing adopters in the legal operations department.

As legal operations departments continue to grow in prevalence, find new scenarios to drive savings & revenue, and forge new paths utilizing inputs/outputs from data-centric technology, enterprises will increasingly need strong, smart, cross-functional leaders. With that growth will also come a rise in expectations and standards—not just for those willing to step up into the shoes of a legal ops leader, but also for those responsible for sales and spend.

It’s best to get on board now and find a legal ops leader that can help drive value out of your contracts.