|The anthropology of the office™|
Legal operations /ˈliːgəl/ /ˌɒpəˈreɪʃənz/ (n.)
Recursive rent-extraction from the consummate rentiers.
Legal operations are industrialised second-order rent-seekers who feed off the direct, first-order rent-seeking of those members of the legal profession who, shipwrecked on the sacred voyage from pupil to partner, found themselves washed up on the deserted shores of a in-house legal department.
The history of inhouse legal — how it went from “sleepy backwater for awkward, work-shy, typo nuts” to “military-forensic complex in need of taming with extreme prejudice by management consultancy” in twenty short years is interesting, by the way.
What the MBAs bring to the party
Now MBAs are not known for their imagination, but they do have a long suit in reductionist analytical rigour and they do love an over-arching metaphorical schema. Management consultants are keen on publishing these, and they will throw PowerPoint thought pieces around at the gentlest invitation. Lacking the subject matter expert’s deep grasp of the market, the “in-house legal problem” may be impervious to front-on attack, but they can analyse it into submission.
You do this by breaking down the intractable whole into legible, familiar components that already exist in the MBA toolkit. Each becomes its own little sub-domain, with its own workstream lead-led workstream, going out and gathering evidence and, basically, getting in the way of the lawyers who are busily trying to execute on their own time-worn business model.
Perversely, change manager interference only further slows down the lawyers even — every other day they are fending off a call from a well-meaning analyst asking for feedback on some innovation or other they didn’t ask for and have little interest in using — while the size of the legal operations team grows, and it foments its plans to entrench itself into the legal team.
The legal work catalog, comprises the following components and opportunities:
- Strategic planning
- Formulating models for legal service delivery
- Project management
- Triage management
- Practice operationalisation
- Organisational optimisation
- Knowledge management
- Information governance
- Vendor management
- Finance management
- Business intelligence
- Training and personnel development
- Technology infrastructure management
Suddenly, the business of being an in-house lawyer is worthy of a modern military-industrial complex to support it.