ACC Launches New Section For Legal Ops Professionals

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By Susan Bokermann

March 9 — The Association of Corporate Counsel has launched its new Legal Operations Professionals membership section.

This new section will partner with existing groups to support the growing number of legal operations professionals, especially among Fortune 500 companies, according to a March 4 ACC press release.

Amar Sarwal, ACC vice president and chief legal strategist, hopes the new section will provide a better definition of the role of legal operations professionals and provide a “better explanation of [their] value.” Sarwal said some of the goals of the section include advocacy on behalf of legal operations professionals, as well as opportunities for them to develop resources.

The ACC is a global legal association that promotes the common professional and business interests of in-house counsel.

Ground Zero

Legal operations professionals are at “ground zero” for making decisions in legal departments, said Sarwal, such as about staffing, budgeting, outside counsel selection and strategic planning. According to Sarwal, they “work on the business of the practice of law.”

This means working closely with, and “at the behest of,” the general counsel, Sarwal said. “We believe there is a strong interest in collaboration” between the legal operations professionals and general counsel offices.

Although legal operations professionals don't have to be attorneys, Sarwal said they should be able to “speak the language.” In addition, some other skills are important in this area, he said, including mathematics, analytics and operations management. In other words, legal operations professionals also need to “speak the language of the bottom line of the business.”

Law firms are transforming themselves, said Sarwal, and legal operations roles are an indicator of that change. According to an ACC survey, 40 percent of CLOs overseeing departments of 300 or more lawyers and 36 percent of CLOs of departments between 50 and 299 delegate operational management responsibilities.

Changing a legal department “has to be one of the harder things out there,” said Sarwal. In-house counsel “do more than just practice law,” he said, and the ACC's new member section is a response to that challenge.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Bokermann in Washington at sbokermann@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

The ACC press release is available at http://www.acc.com/aboutacc/newsroom/pressreleases/acclaunchesmembershipsectionforlegaloperations.cfm.