Three takeaways from a new Kaplan-Cimplifi legal operations Study:

  • Legal operations and what it does is becoming more recognized by in-house legal.
  • There is an increased recognition that legal ops can better deal with things like e-discovery and contract management.
  • E-discovery providers, like Cimplifi, see an opportunity to apply their e-discovery skills and experience to things like contract lifecycle management


A little lost in all the comings and goings at the recent LegalWeek was the release of a Report on legal operations from Ari Kaplan and Cimplifi. Kaplan and Marla Crawford, the General Counsel of Cimplifi, presented the findings of the Report at an educational session during LegalWeek.


Cimplifi calls itself an integrated legal services provider. It claims to leverage technology and expertise to simplify e-discovery and, more recently, contract analytics. According to its website, Cimplifi’s goal is to help manage risk, control costs, and get more done with less stress.  Cimplifi used to be called Compliance. It rebranded itself earlier this year.

Cimplifi engaged Ari Kaplan Advisors to conduct a series of in-depth interviews with legal operations leaders. The goal was to better understand how their departments are today using legal operations. The Study also looked at what those surveyed see for the future of legal operations. The Report is titled Modern Legal Operations: At the Convergence of Law and Business.


Kaplan interviewed some  31 legal ops professionals at a whole range of organizations. Most of these organizations had more than $10 billion in annual revenue. Included were banks and financial institutions, insurance companies, technology and telecommunications businesses, consumer products businesses, and others. It did not appear to include law firms, however.


I always like and pay attention to Kaplan’s reports and surveys. They are usually well done and thought out. Kaplan also mixes the right amount of statistics with comments and quotes from the participants. These quotes that capture the essence of what the dry numbers reveal. This Report was no different.


Legal ops sits at the intersection of law and business


During the LegalWeek presentation, Crawford noted that legal ops sits at the intersection of law and business. She told the audience legal ops seek to bridge the gaps between pure legal professionals, business people, technologists, and project managers. Crawford also noted that legal ops professionals have embraced technology much more than lawyers. (I think they call that damning by faint praise lol).


Legal ops has been a buzzword in legal circles for sometime. Perhaps made well known by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium or CLOC, the concept of legal ops has often suffered a bit from definitional uncertainty. Many people, especially lawyers, have struggled with understanding what exactly it is and what legal op professionals actually do.


Kaplan’s Report helps with this hurdle: even the title adds some clarity to the concept. As the Report makes clear, legal ops seeks to apply business concepts to the legal process, making it more efficient and less wasteful.


According to the Report, “One of the most impactful transformations in corporate law departments over the past decade has been the enduring commitment to empowering legal operation.” That may be a bit of an overstatement. But there is no doubt that the role of legal ops in legal departments is in truth becoming more recognized and well defined. As the Report puts it, “the legal operations team serves at the intersection of law and business, with a key focus on strategy, technology and the use of data to drive performance.”


Legal operations teams are part of the broader strategic decision-making activities within the legal department


Kaplan also notes that legal ops professionals have long embraced technology.  But he also perceptively points out that today’s prevalence of the use of cloud technology—which legal ops rely on— has given legal ops more independence from IT departments and clout. This was borne out by Kaplan’s findings: 90% of those surveyed say the role of legal ops has changed and expanded over the last 18 months. According to the Report, “even more compelling, the data and perspective cities indicate that legal operations teams are part of the broader strategic decision-making activities within the legal department.”


As one of the survey participants put it, “Historically, the legal operations role was administrative and reactive; now, it is much more focused on strategic planning.” “The role of legal operations has evolved into being a strategic partner,” said another.


Legal ops are attracting more and more technical talent as well. 48% of those in legal departments of 5 or more say legal ops is a growing field. The areas in most demand in this area: those with technological solutions, legal strategy, and contract management.


One of the key issues revealed in the Kaplan study is the extent to which e-discovery practices could be used by legal ops in general and with contract lifecycle management (CLM)  in specific. It seems clear from the Report that e-discovery providers, such as Cimplifi, understand that what they are really providing and have the ability to provide is processes and understanding. Said Crawford, e-discovery providers have used technology to get the business of law done. They know how to develop standards and playbooks that help with complicated workflows such as that presented by e-discovery. This is at the core of what legal ops professionals do.


58% of the Kaplan respondents said they have noticed e-discovery providers moving into legal ops. In a sense, it’s a natural fit. I have written before about how e-discovery providers are expanding their role into data analytics. But legal operations seem to be even a more natural place for them to move to. If, as stated in the Report, the “focus of legal ops is on strategy, technology, and the use of data to drive performance”, then, yes, e-discovery providers have a golden opportunity. These are things many e-discovery providers do well. Certainly Cimplifi plans to expand more into legal ops services; it has already announced it will be offering CLM services, for example.


It’s a common method for upscaling your products—look for something that’s a bit ancillary to what doing but to which you can apply your abilities and knowledge


As Kaplan put it, it’s a common method for upscaling your products—look for something that’s a bit ancillary to what you are doing but to which you can apply your abilities and knowledge. Then move into it. That’s certainly what Cimplifi plans to do.


There is certainly an appetitive for the value e-discovery providers might bring. 97% of the people surveyed say they would like to have playbooks and standard processes for such things as CLM and, for that matter, e-discovery itself. E-providers are particularly good at creating playbooks and standard processes. They have to be. As Crawford put it, they have to defend their process often before a judge who may not quite understand what the big fuss is all about.


The legal ops field may be ripe for their harvesting.


Another point: 90% of those surveyed said they want new technology to drive efficiencies in workflows. But many voice concerns that they purchase new technology and then have problems using it. In fact, 81% say they have or perceive challenges in using tech. E-discovery providers have long had to, by necessity, understand and embrace technology.


And many of the respondents think e-discovery experience is a natural fit for CLM as well. 81% would expect to reap benefits from a successful contract management program. 65% think best practices in e-discovery could be applied to contract analytics. 61% would be interested in a vendor that could do just that. 81% think that would see benefits from better CLM management. 48% say they have limited visibility into their contract portfolios. E-discovery providers are particularly good at ferreting out data from various silos and then assimilating that data into something useful and revealing.


So look for more and more e-discovery providers, like Cimplifi, to expand their offerings. The legal ops field may be ripe for their harvesting.