Five simple questions to assess your Legal department’s transformation maturity

30 June 2021

Legal department transformation maturity

Lawyers who have been in the game for longer than we have constantly tell us that the Legal industry is changing faster today than it ever has before.

With new technologies, new ways of thinking, and the advent of ‘legal operations’, the definition of a modern legal function has come a long way.

And where a few years ago a GC who was implementing technology was regarded as an early adopter, the sector is now considered to be well and truly crossing the technology adoption chasm. In fact, Gartner predicts that almost 50% of legal work related to major corporate transactions will be automated by 2024.

Figure 1. The technology adoption lifecycle. ''Crossing The Chasm'', Geoffrey Moore.

At a time where General Counsel turnover is at an all-time high one thing is clear: if your Legal function isn’t rapidly maturing, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

How to calculate your Legal department’s maturity

The question of legal function maturity is far more complex and nuanced than simply whether you’ve adopted technology or not. In light of this, many well-meaning GCs find themselves stuck knowing what factors to consider, which inhibits their ability to construct a strategic transformation roadmap.

To assist, we’ve put together some questions so you can establish where your function sits on the Legal function maturity curve. If you like, you can also complete our two-minute Legal Function Checkup which sends you a customised report highlighting your greatest opportunities for improvement.

1. Who does your company’s legal work?

When considering your Legal function’s maturity, you should start with this simple question and reflect on how your function is structured.

Are all your lawyers in-house? Or do you outsource certain projects or tasks?

And if you outsource, who are you outsourcing to?

Progressive legal functions understand that the ebbs and flows of the business will cascade down to the work and capacity required from Legal.

If you find you are spending the majority of your project time and budget outsourcing work, consider insourcing short term secondee. By incorporating secondees into an agile Legal team you can manage these ebbs and flows and ensure there are always the right amount of hands on deck at any given time.

2. How responsive is your team to business needs?

Reflect on how easily Legal can respond to both standard legal requests, and also the overall goals of the business.

Do you have limited time to focus on anything except drafting simple contracts? Or is your team actively involved with strategic business objectives?

A mature legal function will have a place and voice in developing and executing the strategic objectives of the business. If this sounds like you, fantastic! You’ve successfully reinforced Legal as more than just a ‘service function’ of the business.

If your department is struggling to find the capacity to add the strategic value you want, perhaps consider utilising contract automation technology to help draft the high-volume but easily template-able contracts in your business.

3. Do you have a legal technology budget?

Allocation of a budget towards optimising your function with technology is a key indicator of not only a progressive Legal function, but also a progressive business.

There aren’t many functions who can perform at their best without the support of tech that streamlines workflows and makes it easier to report their activities.

Afterall, what is Sales without Salesforce, or Finance without Xero?

4. Can you easily communicate the value of Legal to the business?

Talking about how busy you are is one thing, but every function is busy and it can be difficult for others to understand the intricacies of legal work.

The first signs of a mature Legal function will be the rest of the business viewing Legal as a strategic asset and not a buzz-kill blocking the marketing campaigns and delaying deals.

If your team is tracking the volume and status of your matters you’re certainly off to a great start. These basics help paint the Legal picture to the non-lawyers in the business.

The most mature Legal functions will go a step further with clearly defined KPIs.

Identifying your key performance indicators (KPIs) is the best way to clearly communicate to the business the value of Legal. These KPIs vary depending on your organisation but might include:

  • time spent on low vs high-value matters,

  • business cost savings and,

  • revenue/margin impact on a real-time basis

By communicating in terms the business understands, progressive Legal functions can elevate Legal to ‘strategic value-add’ which makes it much easier to secure budget for further function transformation initiatives like technology.

5. How does your business get in touch with Legal?

In a small business, just dropping a quick email to one of the lawyers or popping by somebody’s desk might be an acceptable way to brief in legal work.

However, unless your department has no work to do and no remote working team members, this process will likely become overwhelming and ineffective if it hasn’t already.

If your Legal department uses a form of inbox, webform or chatbot where all Legal support requests come through, you’re off to a great start.

The next steps to Legal department maturity are typically linking up your support request tool to your matter management software, enabling Legal to easily allocate requests to the most appropriate lawyer.

Take the Legal function check-up quiz

No matter where you are on the Legal maturity curve, there are always opportunities to improve.

Our free online tool grades your Legal function on strategy, effectiveness, risk management, technology and more. Upon completion, you will be emailed a detailed report highlighting the greatest opportunities for improvement.

Take our 2 minute quiz to see where your Legal function scores.

The world's top GCs work with Plexus

As the global economy moves faster and becomes increasingly volatile, organisations must radically evolve their operating models to more dynamically identify and respond to opportunities and threats. Plexus helps leading GCs shift their organisational design, evolve their talent competencies and digitise their functions to deliver faster, most cost-effective and more agile legal support.

More resources


Get weekly legal transformation best practices, benchmarks and trend analysis in your inbox:

Thanks for subscribing

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience and improve our services. By using our website, we assume you're ok with this. View our privacy policy for details.

Get your free eBook!

Modernise your legal function with the Digital Transformation Guide for General Counsels.

Digital Transformation Guide