The Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations: Part H

Legal Operations - Powerful First Steps

by GLS GROUP July 02, 2020

Steps to glory

“Your first steps on a transformation journey are without doubt the most important. If you do not take the correct first steps and achieve success with them, you risk failing to gain traction or otherwise being forced up an unnecessarily steep incline.”

In this Part H we seek to share with you some really useful insights relevant to getting your transformation journey up and running successfully.

Specifically, we focus on:

how you should assess the resources that are actually available to your IHL team – something which is significantly under-estimated by most IHLs;

the absolute criticality of you achieving success with each and every step you take on your IHL Transformation; and

those areas that represent excellent starting points for an IHL Transformation and which positively express the principles of R.P.L.V. thinking.

Step Number 1: Understanding the Resources actually available to you

Most of the resources available to IHLs are largely under-utilised
As the foundation concept of “R.P.L.V.” the first step for any IHL looking to “step up its game” is to understand the true availability of “resources” that are at their disposal. 

Most IHLs tend to underestimate the extent of resources that are available to them and will typically say that they only have access to “lawyers”, “budget” and perhaps some “subscriptions”.

The reality is that all IHLs have far more resources available to them than they have historically appreciated – mostly due to the fact that they have been too busy to take a step back and really think about how to become less busy.

As we have said – effective legal operations is about a way of thinking. To begin to see the full extent of resources available to your IHL team you need to adjust your thinking in terms of what constitutes an "IHL resource".

More than the eye

This is absolutely critical given that most IHLs have perennial difficulties in obtaining additional HR or financial resources from their business.

Indeed, our work shows that almost any IHL can achieve a 30%+ increase in their productivity by simply correctly identifying the full spectrum of resources actually available to them, and then prioritising and leveraging the application of those resources.

For the purposes of this Part H we will only review some basic highlights of our legal resource theory however we would encourage you to watch the GLS Legal Operations Master Class 3 (2020) – Legal Resources & 6 Effective Leverage Strategies to gain a fuller understanding of this topic.

Related Resource: RPLV & In-House Legal Team Efficiency Strategies

Related Resource: (Re)watch GLS Legal Operations Master Class 3 (2020) – Legal Resources & 6 Effective Leverage Strategies.

What are IHL resources?
GLS takes a very practical view of what constitutes an available “IHL resource”:

Resources quote

An “IHL resource” is quite simply “anything that can be helpful to your IHL team to get the job done”.

The “perspective” shift here is to move away from thinking of legal team resources as being limited to “people” and “budget” and apply a single “usefulness” test to everything that is accessible to your IHL team.

By asking whether a potential resource is helpful or not, the spectrum of available IHL resources grows dramatically. An abundance of potential resources will become available to you from both internal and external sources.

Additionally, and beneficially, when viewed through this lens a powerful and necessary shift in your thinking occurs – you actually start thinking far more instinctively about:

your role/mandate (i.e. the task) as an IHL; and

what tools you need and how to fulfil that role (i.e. the how to).

This type of thinking, particularly when it becomes instinctive, helps your team become significantly more “performance” orientated in its operational approach, delivering an improved focus on goals, tools and outcomes.

By adopting our definition of IHL resources any IHL can instantly recognise that they have access to a far greater pool of resources than previously thought and they will spend far more time thinking about “tasking” and “performance”.

The Full Spectrum of IHL Resources

Instead of only having access to “manpower, budget and some subscriptions”, when you apply the GLS definition of “IHL resources”, the fuller spectrum of available resources rapidly expands and may look something like the following:

Available spectrumWhat that “fuller” resource spectrum will look like will differ from IHL team to IHL team. However, the essential “enabling” principle is to survey your domain and ask yourself if what you see could be “useful” to your IHL.

One thing we certainly guarantee is that your inventory of available resources will be significantly longer than a list containing only “people, budget and subscriptions”. Please do try this simple task – it costs absolutely nothing.

Cultivating your legal resources

Appreciating that both the internal and external ecosystems in which you operate are comprised of plentiful resources that you can enlist in the services of your IHL – the next step is to consider how to do so efficiently.

As you begin identifying the broader spectrum of IHL resources available to you - you will likely be both pleasantly surprised and potentially somewhat overwhelmed by how many resources are available, which is still good news.

What is now needed is an efficient framework through which you can logically arrange your available resources into a limited number of categories which can then themselves be efficiently cultivated so as to deliver productivity returns.

In GLS Legal Operations Master Class 3 (2020) we explored the theme of “resource cultivation” in detail but for the purposes of this Guide we want to share with you the fact that even in relation to the longest list of IHL resources the following will apply:

they can be broken down into a limited number of distinct categories of resources with similar characteristics;

each distinct resource category responds positively to a “cultivation” strategy specific to that resource category; and

working with a limited number of resource cultivation strategies will allow you to efficiently “cultivate” the majority of your available resources (e.g. – minimum effort for maximum output).

Whilst we encourage you to watch GLS Legal Operations Master Class 3 (2020) – our break down of each resource category and effective cultivation strategies are set out below:

Resource categories

Related Resource: (Re)watch GLS Legal Operations Master Class 3 (2020) – Legal Resources & 6 Effective Leverage Strategies.

Step 2: Set Yourself Up For Success.

To be successful you must succeed. Think about it – it’s a powerful statement that should shape the scope, ambition, time and manner in which you approach the transformation of your IHL.distraction

If you want to be successful at transforming your IHL, you must ensure that you set yourself up for success - as corporate culture is notoriously “resistant” and “fickle” when it comes to supporting any kind of change.

There are three vital points that we want to flag here in relation to your “first steps”:

• Guaranteed Success Only: your first steps must be “guaranteed” to succeed so that when you take that step you win support for the next step in your transformation agenda – everyone likes a winner and “corporate culture” means that people will join the success train;

• Focus on Formative Stations: it is essential that you address the “Formative station on each IHL Line” first. Formative stations invariably drive/shape/influence the overall performance of their respective IHL Lines.

• Follow the Logical Order: your transformation work must follow the “natural order” of things where they exist – by understanding “inter-dependencies” and “commonalities”, the correct order of things will deliver the “L” in R.P.L.V.

The first point above stems from “change management” basics – you have to give your internal stakeholders good reasons to want to support you and that means delivering tangible “success” that immediately benefits your internal stakeholders.

The good news is that almost all transformation tasks can be broken down into small logical steps that themselves pose little to no risk of failure - so planning for and achieving success is not difficult.

The second point reflects that there is a natural starting point for certain tasks if you wish for them to be executed efficiently and/or wish to avoid failure. Build the foundations of your new house before you build the roof.

Doing the “formative things” first allows you to deliver with the “L” in R.P.L.V. as it happens to be a “leverage” strategy that consistently delivers the greatest possible organisation productivity ripple-effect to your program.

The third point reflects that legal transformation projects contain certain tasks that must be done in a certain order in order to achieve the desired transformation outcomes and for the transformation process to occur as efficiently as possible.

So, in addition to starting off at the right point (see point 2 above), what follows tends to be a logical “next step” order which removes the guess work from your transformation agenda as you decide what should be done and when.

Our experience shows that the timing and sequence of transformation activities can massively influence the overall efficiency and quality of transformation on a specific IHL Line – i.e. - there is “a right way” of doing things.

The 3 points above come together to dictate a certain logical flow that can be followed to deliver success efficiently. A logical flow for transformation work flows.

Step 3: Focus on Formative Stations first

Here we examine some of the Formative Stations that exist on some of the most high profile IHL Lines:


The No.1 source of institutional contracting inefficiencies is the absence of a clearly articulated, organisation-wide policy that defines what are the acceptable contracting parameters for that institution. We call this IHL Station the “Contracting Policy”.

A Contracting Policy is perhaps the simplest and most potent efficiency initiative that any IHL can implement to drive verifiable efficiencies across the entire Contracting Line. As such it is a Formative Station on the Contracting Line.

If your first step towards optimising your contracting function is not defining an organisation-wide Contracting Policy, then you will deprive your initiative of the very policy assets that empowers ALL IHL Stations on the Contracting Line.

Just take a look at the resonance that this Formative Station has over the entire contracting process:

GLS flow

The "Ripple Effect" here is enormous – without a Contracting Policy the quality of contracting tools such as Clause Banks, harmonised templates, legal checklists, Playbooks, Contract Automation and AI is greatly diminished.

Related Resource: See GLS White Paper “Contracting Policies: The Most Effective Drivers of Contracting Infrastructure Efficiency”.

Related Resource: GLS Contracting Policy™ - A single, organisation wide contracting policy.

Related Resource: GLS Clause Bank™

Related Resource: GLS Playbook™ - Making every negotiation your best.

Related Resource: GLS Checklists™ - for a library of agreement specific checklists.


A Formative Station for your Service Provider Line is unquestionably the implementation of “Guidelines For External Counsel”.

“Increasingly, clients are demanding more “value” in return for their legal spend, and by value they mean greater efficiency, predictability, and cost effectiveness in the delivery of legal services. What once was a seller’s market has now clearly become a buyer’s market, and the ramifications of that change are significant.”  Georgetown University School of Law, 2016 Report on the State of the Legal Market

The objectives of legal operations include reducing reliance on external providers, sourcing better deals and demanding greater value from those providers – this is how you “cultivate” this category of legal resource.

To achieve this, IHLs must themselves take responsibility for defining clear and succinct rules of engagement for their external law firms. These rules will embody the IHL’s own procurement and value principles.Services

Build up a clear understanding around what your IHL considers valuable, and then enlist your law firms to articulate joint goal realisation (insofar far as they can contribute).

The Ripple Effect here is that you provide a uniform construct for all of your external dealings and you enlist each external service provider to help you implement your legal transformation agenda.

Note that law firms belong to a resource category that has historically been “single use” and delivered little to an IHL by way of “recurring value” whilst consuming disproportionate amounts of the IHL’s available legal spend.

As such, it is critical that IHLs look very carefully at what “value” law firms are actually delivering beyond the immediacy of the actual mandate. These issues should be addressed in your Guidelines for External Counsel.

Additionally, external providers can and should be asked to provide you with workflow metrics associated with the work they execute -we will unpack this further in Part I - IHL Performance Analytics.

Related Resource: See GLS White Paper on “How to Performance Manager Your External Counsel”.

Related Resource: GLS External Counsel Guidelines™ - Performance Manage Your External Counsel.

Related Resource: GLS External Counsel Engagement Letter – Template Document to Engage External Counsel.

Related Resource: GLS External Counsel Management™ - Efficient Management of Your External Counsel.

Related Resource: GLS Legal Dept. KPI™ - A Manual of Essential Legal Dept. Metrics.


A Formative Station on the Dispute IHL Line is to formulate and put into place a “Dispute Detection and Avoidance Policy”.

DisputesThis is an example of an IHL resource belonging to the “Long Term Asset” category. Yes, it will take time to develop and see results, but it will consistently deliver dependable, powerful results. 

Disputes are voracious consumers of legal department time and dollars, and they typically involve scenarios where you have the least control over your external legal providers’ costs. This is especially true in formal dispute proceedings.

The Ripple Effect here is a long term decline in the disputes that you encounter that result in contentious proceedings (i.e. a preventive health strategy) and consequently a reduction in the costs incurred in relation to formal dispute proceedings.

And, as we know, “preventative health” is a far better strategy for ensuring overall health and performance than waiting to correct/cure something after it has gone wrong.

The economic profile of dispute avoidance, in time, delivers extremely high ROI.

Related Resource: GLS Group Legal Policies – Know what you want to achieve.

Related Resource: GLS Dispute Manager™ - A Cost Effective Litigation Management Solution.


Legal technology is no different to any other type of technology and nor should it be.

However, before you spend a single dollar on any legal technology, the first thing to do is to re-define your view of what technology is – and it most certainly isn’t limited to the headline grabbing types of technology we regularly read butler

Technology is, quite simply, anything that increases productivity and/or reduces the required units of effort -this is also true of “legal technology”.

This is a vital enabling concept for anyone trying to adopt a legal technology agenda for their IHL.

This is your first formative step – and it is totally free. If you embrace this step your ability to invoke a successful, legal technology enabled transformation agenda will be greatly enhanced.

With this enhanced view of legal technology, you will be able to develop a far more accessible legal technology strategy for your IHL. Taking this first vital step costs absolutely nothing – but can literally save you millions.

So, you can deploy an incredibly effective legal technology strategy without spending a cent, as much of what you need to do involves preparing the “content” on which applications work – and without which it will not perform well.

The Ripple Effect here is enormous – numerous ways to deploy a “technology” driven approach to all your IHL Lines will rapidly emerge.

Related Resource: our White Paper “How to avoid a high-tech train wreck”.
Related Resource: GLS Legal Dept. Management Systems - Solutions For Your Legal Dept.
Related Resource: Doc Management Systems – Solutions For Your Legal Dept.
Related Resource: A.I. Support – Solutions For Your Legal Dept. 
Related Resource: Automation Support – Solutions For Your Legal Dept.
Related Resource: Legal Tech Procurement – Solutions For Your Legal Dept.
Related Resource: Data Migration – Solutions For Your Legal Dept.
Related Resource: If you are planning to implement a DMS you might want to start by utilising this helpful (and free) DMS Evaluation Checklist produced by Imanage.


Legal analytics entails extracting actionable knowledge from data to assist IHLs in decision making that enables the better deployment of finite legal resources against exponentially growing legal & compliance support needs.Data analysis

The most potent source of legal department data without doubt resides in the simple Legal Services Request Form (“LSRF”) – the means by which your internal client briefs into your team the matters on which they require your support.

Apart from being vital from the “garbage in / garbage out” perspective (i.e. ensuring good instructions so that your IHL can produce good deliverables), the LSRF offers data that is critical for DNA level resource planning and performance justification - both of which are essential for legal department performance.

As such, a Formative Station for the Data Analytics Line is to implement an LSRF – this is very simple, but without it, it will be much harder to tap the full benefits of any data analytics initiatives.

The good news is that the LSRF is a fast, easy and simple IHL Station to implement – indeed, you can create one yourself in no time.

If you have not implemented your own LSRF tool, then you are depriving yourself of key data – you are essentially permitting your IHL to run blind. We unpack this issue further in Part K.

In GLS Legal Operations Master Class 4 (2020) – Legal Team Performance: Tracking Tangible Outcomes, we covered off on all the essential elements of implementing a data analytics program for your IHL.

Related Resource: (Re)watch GLS Legal Operations Master Class 4 (2020) – Legal Team Performance: Tracking Tangible Outcomes.
Related Resource: See Legal Operations Essentials: The Legal Services Request Form.
Related Resource: You can download a world class LSRF for just US$99 from the GLS Legal Operations Centre.

Essential Observations/Tips:

• IHL Resources are anything that can help an IHL team get the job done.
• All IHLs have far more resources available to them than they might think.
• IHL resources belong to a limited no. of categories which each respond to a unique cultivation strategy.
• The first step on your transformation journey will be one of the most important.
• Start with easy but powerful “wins” to gain valuable trust and political capital within your business.
• The efficiency of a “Contracting Parameter” will ripple across your entire contracting infrastructure.
• “Low tech” can be easier, cheaper, less risky and more impactful than “high tech”.
• It is easier to incorporate Data Analytics into your legal function than you might think.
• It is much cheaper to avoid a dispute than resolve a dispute that has started.
• Legal Operations should focus on creating the greatest productivity “Ripple Effect” possible.



IHLs must demonstrate their value contribution. Performance metrics are becoming critical to IHL operations – the objective being to translate the department's goals into measurable units that can show progress and improvement.

IHLs who succeed in ingraining quantifiable performance management tools into their operations produce impressive short and long-term results.

In Part I of this Guide we unpack the fundamentals of IHL performance metrics.


For other resources:


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GLS Group - Nominated by Financial Times as the:
"Most Innovative Law Firm - Asia Pacific"
Innovation through Technology 
The Middle East Legal Awards 2020

The Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations: Part A :An Introduction

An executive summary of the key highlights and concepts that integral to effective legal operations. ... Continue reading

The Ultimate Guide to Legal Operations: Part B :What is meant by “legal operations”?

What exactly is this term / practice / discipline and why is it important? ... Continue reading

Performance Managing Your External Legal Counsel

How to reduce your external counsel spend and improve your relationship with your external counsel ... Continue reading

Legal Operations Essentials: The Legal Services Request Form :The gatekeeper to effective in-house legal function transformation

Effective LSRFs deliver quality instructions, allow IHLs to efficiently mobilise and generate valuable legal operations data that in turn drive continuous improvements ... Continue reading