Smarter Law updates: Legal operations is thriving


Director – Client Solutions Peter Campbell recently celebrated his five-year anniversary at Hall & Wilcox. Peter reflects on how the legal operations industry has changed and future trends in this space.

By Peter Campbell, Director – Client Solutions  

Since I joined Hall & Wilcox five years ago, legal operations has transformed as an industry. From being practically unknown as a term 10 years ago, legal operations is now a hot topic. A recent LinkedIn job search for ‘Legal Operations’ shows 500+ jobs. Hall & Wilcox, with our Smarter Law approach, has been at the forefront. We have approached it with a start-up mentality. Putting effort in, experimenting, researching and collaborating with the rest of our sector.

Over time the pace has picked up. We have collectively moved from awareness, to interest, to action so it is now embedded in how we run the firm. We define innovation as a change that adds value. This highlights that an idea isn’t innovation unless we bring it to life. Our legal teams are spending significant discretionary effort now to progress their ideas and make those changes happen for us and our clients. They wouldn’t put the time in unless they saw the benefits.

Looking at technology enablement, we have had huge growth in adoption. In five years, we have added 40 legaltech systems, used by more than 320 clients, managing thousands of matters across our whole practice. Our new case management system clocked over 50,000 automated documents and emails in its first year of operation alone.

Technology aside, the number of innovation projects we run internally and with clients is trending up too. Legal teams are more aware of what’s possible and more willing to find the time in busy days to achieve a different solution. The number of innovation projects we actually finish has also increased as we get better at picking the winners and better at execution. All of these are learned skills.

Why is this important? A thriving legal operations team is an acknowledgement that law firms are about more than lawyers and the law. It is also about efficient use of resources and using technology and innovation to solve client problems.

A new innovation we introduced three years ago is for our graduates to do one of their rotations in the legal operations team. We are one of the first firms in Australia to formalise this arrangement. This year we also launched a formal legal operations graduate program, where we have a graduate who is focusing on a career in legal operations work in my team. Both of these initiatives have enormous benefits for all involved. We get to develop new talent in this growing area by supporting alternative career paths for lawyers, and through the Legal Ops rotations we are able to seed the firm with Legal Ops savvy lawyers.

For the future, I see the industry continuing to mature. Legal operations will be an accelerating trend rather than a big disruption. The more sophisticated clients, who are further along in their legal operations journey, are getting smarter as to how they procure legal services, how they measure the value and performance of those services, and how they use data to quantify the portfolios of work they are running. Smaller players will leverage off the work that more leading edge legal operations organisations are doing and will mature as well.

Client expectations across the board will continue to increase as more people see what’s possible. The future ahead for legal operations and law firms looks bright. I’m excited to play a part in this transformation. If you would like to discuss Legal Operations and what you could do in your team, please reach out to me.