Maturity Model for the operations of a legal department

ACC Legal Operations offers this Maturity Model as a reference tool. Legal department leaders are encouraged to use it as a tool to benchmark maturity in any given area(s), bearing in mind that based on department size, staffing and budgets, priorities and aspirational targets will vary.

We have partnered with leading legal service providers to produce the Foundational Toolkit to advance from Early to Intermediate stages in each of 14 law department management functions, which will be presented in a series of monthly webcasts beginning in January 2018. We invite you to return often as we assemble the toolkit.

Change Management

  • Description
    A systematic process to enable an organization to embrace targeted changes in the way work is done.


    Maturity Model Series - Change Management
    Feb 05, 2019– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    Thompson Hine
    • No systematic change management (CM) process or strategy
    • Change tends to be reactive as opposed to proactive and is often viewed with cynicism due to false starts
    • Communication is ad hoc, if any; most information spread by hearsay
    • Systematic approach has been developed and is applied for most major projects
    • CM is an acknowledged ingredient for success but responsibility is left to the project team (not a part of the overall culture)
    • CM is part of planning whenever a major change is being contemplated; some effort made to address CM through communications to the affected staff
    • Standardized processes for managing change embedded in all activities; project management is used in all major initiatives and CM is embedded in all project plans
    • CM experience/competency is evident throughout the organization and is a fundamental part of department culture
    • Both the department and affected clients are systematically informed about change initiatives; feedback is sought and addressed so that participants feel engaged and informed
    • If warranted, staff includes change management resources


  • Description
    The set of activities to ensure organizational awareness of and adherence to rules and regulations in all jurisdictions in which the enterprise does business.


    Maturity Model Series - Compliance
    Dec 04, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Compliance is decentralized in business units across the company
    • No clear definition of compliance
    • No annual training OR bare minimum required by statute/regulations/settlement agreements
    • Centralized compliance function
    • Policies and procedures drafted
    • Gap analysis conducted and strategic plan in place
    • Undertaking automation and systematization of compliance processes
    • Enterprise-wide compliance plan documented, published and communicated
    • Annual compliance testing plan in place
    • Tool(s) deployed to track and mitigate future risk, (e.g. Governance, Risk and Compliance application(s))
    • Protocols and processes developed to identify security and compliance risks as they arise and correct them in real-time

Contract Management

  • Description
    The process of managing contract creation, execution, storage and compliance with contractual obligations


    Maturity Model Series - Evolving Your Contract Management Process
    Feb 22, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • No contract management tool
    • No central repository (contracts saved in multiple locations, e.g. shared drives, hard drives, etc.)
    • Ad hoc legal review
    • No signature policy or weak enforcement/compliance
    • Contracts not completely executed
    • Inconsistent terms; multiple versions
    • Contract lifecycle management tool in place (some automated contract creation, standard contract workflows, approval processes, e-signatures)
    • Central repository in place
    • Authoring supported by family templates, clause libraries, redlining & version control
    • Reporting & audit/history capabilities; operational metrics; obligation tracking; expiration alerts
    • Standardized processes, templates; focus of lawyer review is on exceptions only
    • Signature authorization policy in place; compliance is strong
    • Contract lifecycle management tool is utilized enterprise-wide, leveraging systems integrations (e.g. with procurement and sales systems) and collaboration with supplier portals; nearly paperless
    • Single repository contains all contracts (buy and sell side); robust searchability supports compliance
    • Reporting and metrics are robust, including business intelligence driving continuous improvement in terms
    • Standardization, risk calibration and playbooks allow extensive contract creation/execution with no Legal Department involvement
    • Signature policy is governed through automation; 100% compliance
    • Focus is on operational improvement, reducing cycle times and disputes; investing effort only in highest risk/complexity contracts

eDiscovery & Litigation Management

  • Description
    The process of identifying, collecting and producing electronically stored information in response to a request for production in a law suit or investigation.


    Maturity Model Series - eDiscovery & Litigation Management
    Mar 22, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • All e-discovery coordinated by outside counsel
    • Litigation support (including document review) handled by outside counsel
    • Internal dedicated e-discovery resource to coordinate collections and advise on strategy
    • Limited use of 3rd party services forrst level document review
    • Use of in-house tools for collections, search and preparation of electronically stored information (ESI)
    • Full end-to-end e-discovery program
    • Use of predicative technology to limit human review
    • Regular use of document review services
    • Internal coordination with IT to identify potential e-discovery issues with new technologies

External Resources Management

  • Description
    Oversight of vendors and law firms from selection through performance management and payments.


    Maturity Model Series - External Resource Management
    Nov 06, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Virtually all work that is outsourced is directed to law firms
    • Law firms are at arm's length from in-house department; relationship may be somewhat untrusting or adversarial
    • Law firms are managed by frontline counsel
    • Ad-Hoc billing rates, engagement, and billing standards
    • Limited invoice review and analytics
    • Lack of supplier evaluation program
    • Limited use of alternate legal service providers (LSPs)
    • Concerted effort to improve collaboration with law firms and other LSPs (e.g. through feedback, conferences, joint process improvement efforts)
    • In-house resources (often legal operations) are overseeing cost effectiveness of law firms and LSPs 
    • Billing guidelines are acknowledged & enforced through rigorous bill review
    • Alternate fee arrangements (AFAs) are in limited use and are not incorporated into billing/management systems
    • Some informal or ad hoc law firm/supplier evaluation
    • Sourcing decisions are ongoing considerations and LSPs are integrated in legal services delivery model; use of legal suppliers is driven by value provided at phase/task level
    • Law firms/LSPs are considered value producing business partners; continually improving performance and relationship
    • Outside counsel and vendor management are centralized function(s) within legal operations; involvement in RFPs, engagements, pricing, and performance review
    • AFAs considered on all matters & heavily used; systems smoothly incorporate/support AFAs in billing and metrics/dashboards; procedures exist to assess value and reconcile pricing to cost variances
    • Frequent review of budgets and performance (at least quarterly); standardized supplier quality/performance metrics; regular, structured and mutual feedback
    • Vendor management metrics integrated with GC dashboard
    • Systematic use of value-adds (e.g. training, secondments) and value-enabling capabilities such as firm/LS- provided project management and technology
    • Win rates (outcomes) are considered in vendor selection

Financial Management

  • Description
    The discipline to allocate financial resources, forecast revenues/expenses and create/maintain budgets to ensure compliance with accounting and cash flow requirements.


    Maturity Model Series - Evolving Your Financial Management Process
    Oct 04, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • No standard processes in place
    • No budget or budget set by corporate accounting function
    • No metrics and analytics ″ Timing is ad hoc
    • Budget tracked via spreadsheets and/or word tables, if at all
    • No forecasting and accrual accounting
    • No reserves or contingencies set
    • Standard processes exist but are not documented or well known
    • Budget set by central legal operations or corporate accounting function. Legal operations is accountable for spend and budget
    • Metrics and analytics reactive and not centralized
    • Timing is driven by external party (e.g. corporate finance)
    • Budget tracked via spend management system
    • Forecasts done as requested. Accruals done on large matters
    • Reserves and contingencies set on large matters and/or through informal conversations - undocumented
    • Standard processes defined, documented and communicated through published policies and procedures
    • Budgets developed and managed by practice areas and functions, rolling into a department budget managed by Legal and reported to Corporate Finance and Accounting
    • Defined reports, metrics and dashboards distributed according to a defined schedule with assignees and real time data
    • Timing is driven by Legal (in support of corporate calendar) via published, communicated timeline and/or project plan
    • Budget tracked via standardized tools and systems utilized enterprise wide (within Legal)
    • Forecast and accruals standard, automated with technology and according to a defined timeline
    • Reserves and contingencies set via a standard, defined, and defensible process for tracking and reporting reserve recommendations and aggregated legal contingencies
    • Regular budget reviews with the Sr. Leadership team
    • Overarching financial strategy in place
    • Manage, track, report and benchmark key performance indicators (KPIs)

Information Governance (Records Management)

  • Description
    The system to manage electronic and physical documents enterprise-wide to support an organization's compliance and operational requirements.


    Information Governance (Records Management)
    Jan 08, 2019– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Information governance and recordkeeping are not addressed at all or in an ad hoc manner
    • Employees generally keep everything
    • Information governance and recordkeeping addressed by the business
    • Enterprise policy and retention schedule exist but are not enforced
    • Employees are trained on policy and retention schedule
    • Essential or minimum requirements meet the organization's legal, regulatory and business requirements
    • Still missing opportunities for streamlining business and controlling costs
    • Enterprise policy and retention schedule regularly communicated and enforced
    • Policy and retention schedule redirect regulatory requirements
    • End-to-end document/record life cycle management
    • Information governance integrated into overall corporate infra-structure and business processes
    • Information governance plays a critical role in cost containment, competitive advantage and client service
    • Information governance phase gate included in all IT projects

Intellectual Property Management

  • Description
    Operations to optimize the return on investment in the intangible assets of an organization, such as patents and trademarks.


    Maturity Model Series - Intellectual Property Management
    Sep 27, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Manual trademark docketing via spreadsheet
    • Manual patent tracking
    • Automated patent and trademark docketing (service provided country rules)
    • Basic patent workflow
    • Integrated patent annuity and trademark renewal decisions/payments
    • Fully integrated IP system (patent application and trademark registration, plus enforcement)
    • IP Analytics dashboard
    • Brand Management
    • Integrated intake for invention disclosures, product clearance requests, and trademark clearance requests

Internal Resources Management

  • Description
    The activities to advance the human resources in the legal department, including recruiting, onboarding, training, work allocation, performance management, talent development and employee communications.


    Maturity Model Series - Internal Resource Management
    Jun 21, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Training limited to continuing legal education (CLE) for attorneys
    • Performance management limited to execution of the corporate program
    • Employee recognition is limited to the corporate program
    • Succession planning as required by corporate program
    • Employee engagement surveys limited to corporate program
    • Training for all law department employees (not just attorneys)
    • Legal department-specific talent development protocols are in place for all employees, featuring identification of development opportunities (e.g. special projects or rotations), as well as succession planning
    • Legal-specific or tailored employee recognition program
    • Legal-specific or tailored engagement surveys
    • Legal-specific onboarding checklist
    • Documented employee related policies (e.g. bar dues reimbursement; dress code; etc.)
    • Robust talent development, retention and engagement program, reflecting strategic priorities (can feature diversity, pro bono, community service initiatives, rotations, flexible work options, etc.)
    • Intern/extern programs
    • Law department specific engagement surveys and action plans ″ Formal work processes and procedures (SOPs)
    • Employee networking programs
    • Staffing optimization (right work to the right level)
    • Coordinated employee communication protocols and methods (e.g., department website, community pages)

Knowledge Management

  • Description
    The process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using both structured and tacit knowledge assets, from work products (such as legal memos) to understanding of an issue due to prior experience.


    Maturity Model Series - Knowledge Management
    Aug 01, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Little or no intention to formally manage organizational knowledge; no knowledge sharing mechanism
    • Communication about who knows what or where knowledge assets (KAs) may be found are ad hoc or nonexistent
    • Some KM practices in place, using a centralized repository, intranet or other knowledge sharing mechanism for some categories of knowledge
    • A culture that recognizes and rewards at least some organizational knowledge sharing
    • Rudimentary documented communication about who knows what or where KAs may be found
    • KM is well established, deeply integrated and continually improved
    • Mechanisms and tools for curation, easy finding and sharing of KAs are leveraged and valued throughout the organization
    • KM is a required part of workflows and a standard component in organizational processes
    • Systematic knowledge sharing is accepted as fundamental; KAs are celebrated and directories are maintained and accessible by staff and clients

Metrics and Analytics

  • Description
    The system to collect, organize and use data to inform decision making and performance management.


    Maturity Model Series - Evolving Your Metrics and Analytics
    May 24, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    HBR Consulting
    • Manual tracking
    • Methodology differs by practice area (silos)
    • Focus is on external spending, mostly for budgeting purposes
    • Most metrics generated through manual synthesis of data from disparate systems
    • Ability to analyze external spend on a variety of dimensions; analytics applied to law firm performance management
    • Some metrics are established for internal performance management
    • Limited to relatively few, proven metrics (reducing/avoiding overload)
    • Well established automation for integrating and dashboarding of information.
    • Well balanced across financial controls, outcomes, and operational efficiency
    • Clearly linked to organizational objectives
    • Leading & lagging indicators of performance (including predictive analytics informing decision-making)
    • Measured relative to baselines, benchmarks and targets

Project & Process Management

  • Description
    The disciplines utilized to plan, coordinate and oversee multifaceted initiatives and matters, as well as to continuously improve process efficiency.


    Maturity Model Series - Process and Project Management
    Apr 26, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    Thompson Hine
    • No or ad hoc project oversight
    • Lack of standardized processes or process evaluations
    • Organized teamwork is ad hoc and rare
    • Little to no executive sponsorship
    • Ignorance across the department about the benefits or principles of project and process management
    • Project participation and change communications are piecemeal
    • Formal project management (PM) is applied in some cases, and staff is broadly familiar with the process
    • Leadership drives process reviews and improvement initiatives are conducted in extreme situations; some work processes have been made systematic (e.g. supported by mapping)
    • Staff is fostering best practices and are encouraged to evaluate and improve individual and department practices; they have had some good experience with both project management and process improvement and know to suggest or accept them in certain circumstances
    • Skilled resources have been identified and some dedicated time is allocated
    • Formal PM is applied in all appropriate cases, and staff is very familiar with PM process
    • Executive sponsorship is visible but staff owns the outcomes Process improvement is methodically and continuously conducted in all appropriate situations and driven from within affected groups; most work processes have been made systematic and documented
    • Continuous improvement review; project and process management have become an integral part of the culture; staff are highly motivated to evaluate and improve individual and department practices
    • If warranted, experienced PMP and/or lean resources are part of the staff
    • Good visibility into projects, processes and metrics documenting ongoing impact

Strategic Planning

  • Description
    The process to set legal department goals that align with enterprise objectives, prioritize initiatives, allocate resources and define metrics to assess progress.


    Maturity Model Series - Evolving Your Strategic Planning & Legal Ops Leadership
    Jan 25, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • No legal operations strategic planning process
    • No legal operations strategic plan
    • No alignment among legal department financial, staffing, technology, and outside counsel decisions
    • Informal and reactive approach to operational decisions
    • No measurements and metrics regarding legal operations decisions
    • Formal process identifying current state, where you are going, how you will get there (strategies, goals, and desired outcomes)
    • Published legal operations strategic plan, identifying specific activities aligned with department and company goals
    • Alignment of all legal department financial, staffing, technology, and outside counsel decisions
    • Formal process regarding operational decisions
    • Identifying, capturing, and reporting on key data and other measures to assess progress against goals and plans
    • Annual legal operations planning process, designed to produce plan before submission of annual budget
    • Quarterly reviews and updates to legal operations strategic plan ″ Strategic management of all staffing, technology, and service delivery strategies
    • Legal operations goals, strategies and activities embedded in legal team talent development and assessment activities
    • Quarterly reports and monthly dashboards shared with Leadership regarding progress against goals and plans

Technology Management

  • Description
    The set of activities to optimize utilization of technology, including planning, selection, procurement and/or development, training and promotion of adoption.


    Maturity Model Series - Leveraging Technology
    Jul 25, 2018– On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

    • Complete reliance on corporate IT
    • Limited technology deployment and user adoption
    • Spreadsheets for data/metrics, project management, etc. 
    • Knowledge stored on individual workstations
    • Legal is coordinating with corporate IT, often with a designated liaison and helpdesk support
    • Technology roadmap is focused on leveraging current technology within Legal, driving adoption and establishing some integrations
    • Training is ad hoc
    • Typical systems in place include basic matter management, e-billing, document, contract, and IP management
    • Legal is focused on aligning business processes across the enterprise using technology
    • Longer-term (5-year) technology roadmap; benchmarked & adapted as environment changes
    • Process in place for research, scenario planning and piloting artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies
    • Technologists or legal ops leaders evaluate changes in technology and develop implementation strategies; drive continuous improvement in user adoption
    • Training and user support protocols are well established
    • Strong integration among systems in Legal, and as appropriate across the enterprise
    • Systems include e-discovery, knowledge management, collaboration, full contract lifecycle management; workflow automation; and applications designed to anticipate/mitigate risk (e.g. tracking new regulations, trends in consumer complaints, deficiencies identified in audits)

Maturity Model Webcast Series

  • 4 Dec
  • Compliance

    Dec 04 2018 – On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available

  • 5 Feb
  • Change Management

    Feb 05 2019 – On Demand 60 Minutes
    CLE/CPD Credit Available


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ACC Legal Operations is a section of ACC that supports corporate legal operations professionals by delivering benchmarking, resources, education, and opportunities to collaborate. It also serves as a unified voice to advance this critical business function. Members of ACC, and corporate legal operations professionals who are not lawyers, are invited to participate.


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