How Legal Operations Can Use Technology to Streamline Data Access and Decrease Reliance on IT


Lawyers today are expected to wear more hats and handle more data than ever before. That’s where legal operations comes in. Also known as “legal ops,” these teams help corporate legal departments adopt technology, improve legal processes, and plan strategically to ensure their success from a business perspective.

Legal ops teams bring business and technical expertise to legal departments so that lawyers can spend their time focusing on substantive legal work. For corporate legal departments, the support of legal ops is invaluable as it can not only reduce costs but also make costs more predictable. These days, more and more organizations are catching on to the advantages of adding legal ops professionals to their legal departments and leadership teams.

But as data keeps expanding in volume and diversity, eDiscovery remains a major challenge for legal ops teams striving for efficiency. Legal departments often rely heavily on their information technology (IT) teams when it comes to accessing and controlling the data they need. That leads to frustrated legal ops teams and overburdened IT teams.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to this issue: legal technology. Legal tech tools are the path to efficiency for both legal ops and IT as they allow legal teams to directly access the data they need, find information more quickly, and control their data without depending on IT to do it for them.

In this blog, we’ll first review the basics of legal operations, including defining what it is, explaining how it fits into a broader organization, and discussing the purpose it serves. Next, we’ll explain the dynamic between legal ops and IT teams and discuss how legal technology can help legal ops optimize their results and decrease their reliance on IT.


The basics of legal operations
– What is legal operations?
– How does legal ops fit into the broader organization?
– What purpose does legal ops serve?
The dynamic between legal ops and IT
How technology gives legal ops direct access to data
With the right technology, legal ops can decrease its reliance on IT

Legal operations is an important but evolving part of legal work. Whether it’s in a corporation’s in-house legal department or a law firm—which is likely to call this role something other than legal ops—the operations function can optimize the tools and processes that underlie modern legal work.

Legal ops is typically part of an organization’s legal department. The breadth and composition of legal ops teams can vary, depending on the organization’s size and needs. However, legal team sizes appear to be growing. According to the State of the Industry Report by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium, legal ops team sizes increased in 2021, with the average team size now consisting of seven full-time employees, up from six full-time employees in the prior year.

Leaders of legal ops teams often report directly to the general counsel and may have titles such as Chief Operating Officer, Legal; Legal Operations Director; or Senior Projects Manager, Legal. Staff roles can vary as well, but some examples include administrative managers, billing coordinators, financial analysts, and legal technology specialists. Some organizations prefer that their legal ops professionals are also lawyers, but a J.D. often is not required.

The main goal of a legal ops team is to make the legal department more efficient and effective. Legal ops professionals accomplish this goal by implementing technology and standardized processes that can save time, freeing lawyers to focus on providing high-quality legal services.
In short, legal ops treats the legal department as part of the business, bridging the gap between the legal department and the rest of the organization. By doing so, legal ops transforms legal departments into value drivers of an organization, leaving behind the old stereotypes of legal departments as bottlenecks or cost centers.

Legal ops often must coordinate with their corporate IT team in supporting lawyers’ abilities to deliver legal services. Historically, legal departments have relied heavily on IT departments, particularly during the eDiscovery process. And on-premise IT approaches are the status quo—though perhaps not for long

The mountain of data that legal departments must tackle only continues to grow. With the shift to remote workforces, collaboration tools and chat applications have become workplace norms, resulting in considerably more data that may be discoverable as evidence.

Lawyers are not the only ones burdened by the rise in data volumes. When the legal department depends on IT to access and control the data it needs, already-overburdened IT teams must do much of the heavy lifting. For example, in-house counsel who have frequent, ongoing needs for data preservation and collection might flood IT teams with requests on a regular basis.

Pinging IT staff every time legal needs to access data is simply not efficient. IT teams already have their hands full with other responsibilities—like maintaining data security, ensuring that software is updated, and handling issues related to remote work connections—and may not have time to understand or fulfill the specific needs of each request from the legal department.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Legal ops can reduce its reliance on IT by streamlining access to data. How? By leveraging the right technology.

As discussed above, relying on IT for every data need is a lose-lose situation. The inefficiency, delays, and lack of control are frustrating for lawyers and the legal ops teams tasked with managing the legal department. On the other side, IT teams are strained by the heavy burden of responding to every request from legal.

The solution to this problem is legal technology. A number of legal tech tools can give legal ops teams more control over their data, streamlining the entire eDiscovery process.

As the legal industry catches up on broader trends of replacing on-premise IT approaches with software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud platforms, the eDiscovery process will become much more efficient. The ability to store data in one easily accessible place and eliminate upfront costs through flexible pay structures will simplify the process, reduce costs, and bring better results. Does it get any better from a legal ops perspective?

Actually, it does. There are many other legal technology options that can further enhance the eDiscovery process. Take, for example, Early Data Assessment (EDA). EDA is attractive to legal ops teams because it can save significant money and time by expediting the case evaluation and document review processes. Innovative solutions such as Live EDA can even pinpoint which data is relevant before it’s even collected and create a rich data map with information about where data resides and why it’s there.

Live EDA and other tools that allow in-place searches across all of an organization’s data repositories give legal ops teams the ability to quickly find exactly what they need without calling on IT. Other tools like workflow automation and artificial intelligence (AI) can also save time and add value from the earliest stages of the eDiscovery process. Even when some level of coordination with IT is required, these tools can expedite eDiscovery at all stages.

Automated workflow tools enable legal ops teams to choose workflow templates that are best suited for each project. These workflow templates map out who is responsible for each piece of the process—for example, whether in-house counsel can collect certain data without IT’s assistance—and the timeline each person must follow in completing the portions for which they are responsible. This is especially useful for IT teams, who have far more on their plates beyond the needs of the legal department.AI is another powerful tool for legal ops. Techniques like data mining can drastically reduce the documents that must be collected for review and take it a step further by making suggestions for new keywords or search terms that could lead to better results.

When legal departments have more direct access to, and control over, the data they need, they can achieve better outcomes in less time without relying on their overextended IT teams. What more could a legal ops team ask for? From in-house counsel to IT teams to the organizations they serve, legal technology is a huge win for everybody.