The general counsel’s (GC) role has become increasingly complex over the year. Not only do they have to adapt to rapidly changing regulations, but they also face challenges in running their teams efficiently. Enter legal operations, which take the day-to-day running of the department out of a GC’s hands, allowing them to focus on the work that really matters.


Legal operations are having a bit of a watershed moment globally. A recent survey by Wolters Kluwer of 110 legal departments in the U.K. and the Netherlands found that 29 percent already have dedicated legal operations within their team, while 40 percent of those surveyed believe every team will employ legal operations professionals within three to five years.

So, what are legal operations? In the simplest terms, they are a set of business solutions using cloud-based technology that enables in-house counsel to serve business departments of their companies more effectively. The solutions span strategic planning, financial management and project management, and more, allowing in-house counsel the time to provide legal and strategic advice to their internal clients.

Tracy Greenwood, a legal solutions specialist at Thomson Reuters, highlights the benefits of legal operations to in-house departments. “To handle legal matters, legal teams must collect a lot of information from various sources. Before taking on a matter, they might need to communicate with business units multiple times. This can be very inefficient,” he says. “Rather than hold several meetings, manage several email chains, and gather information from various sources, higher awareness makes it useful to have all the information about a matter in a single intake form. They also want to see statistics about their legal department. Reporting can take several hours at the end of a month, and at the end of a quarter or fiscal year, legal teams may find themselves burning the midnight oil to complete reports. By having all the critical statistics about their legal department in real-time, managers can quickly generate accurate and up-to-date reports with the click of a button.”

GCs might argue that the rise of legal operations, which basically treat the legal function as any other function in the company, is long overdue. However, providers in markets like Japan say that adoption is still low, although awareness among potential users is growing.

“Compared to foreign companies, in many ways, the legal departments of Japanese companies are stuck in the developing stage, both in terms of quantity and quality,” says Eri Maeda, Director of Legal Function of Big Four consulting firm EY, adding that “in many companies, overall demand for legal departments to focus on legal operations has increased mainly due to Japanese companies facing the so-called ‘VUCA’ (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) environment and expansion of their overseas businesses including M&A and active overseas operations.”

Greenwood agrees that Japanese legal operations are behind other countries as far as the rate of adoption. “However, demand for cloud collaboration systems is increasing. As more work is brought to in-house, legal teams are expected to do more work than before,” he notes.

That said, EY has seen awareness of legal operations increasing, and one important factor is the fact that people have had to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a big potential for legal operations to expand and demand has grown in the Japanese market,” Maeda says. “In particular, the COVID pandemic triggered many companies to introduce electronic signature systems replacing the hanko, or seal. Many Japanese companies have shown a strong interest in LegalTech including contract lifecycle management, knowledge management and matter management, some of which utilise artificial intelligence technology. The pandemic has also raised discussions around how legal operations are evolving in Japan. In 2021, the U.S.-based Corporate Legal Operations Consortium or CLOC established Japan Interest Group, and another industry group consisting of representatives from legal departments at major Japanese companies issued a report titled ‘Japanese version of Legal Operations.’”

Greenwood echoes the observation that COVID has provided an impetus. “Business requires face-to-face interaction, and in Japan face-to-face meetings are critical. Because of the pandemic, many people in Japan experienced a work-from-home environment for the first time. They are finding that cloud solutions allow them to collaborate without going to the office. As more and more legal teams become comfortable with cloud solutions, adoption rates are growing,” he says.


Perhaps one of the biggest impediments to the adoption of legal operations is getting buy-in from the business on why it’s important, and how it would benefit the legal team.

“It would take some time to change this situation, but we think there are two approaches to do that,” Maeda says. “One way is to change the company executives’ mindset to be much more cognizant of the importance of legal risk management, which should lead to the hiring of a legal operations head. Another approach is for in-house teams to come up with ways to visualise their performance and demonstrate their significance so that it’s easy to under-stand for internal clients, in particular, to company executives, legal counsels are a ‘business partner and guardian of the company.’”

Maeda adds that as legal departments at Japanese companies are still developing, they are not necessarily given the same importance as at foreign companies. “For instance, the total number of Japanese-qualified GCs/CLOs of listed companies is around 10. Further, many of them are not yet on the board, or executive officers. According to a recent survey by Keieihoyukai (Association of Corporate Legal Departments), only 10 percent of all the respondents are heads of legal who directly report to the CEO,” she notes.

One task of these providers is thus to increase the understanding of how useful legal operations are.

“Legal departments in Japan tend to be limited in their understanding seeing LegalTech is just a tool for pursuing efficiency,” Maeda says. “Of course, LegalTech is a good tool to achieve such purpose and we advise clients for such use. To the point about the visualisation of legal department performance, LegalTech (in particular, as matter management and knowledge management tools) is very effective in demonstrating how legal departments perform legal risk management and supports their business in an efficient manner.”

Maeda adds that it can be a multiple-step process. “In relation to LegalTech, first, we discuss with clients to figure out what the key performance indica-tors (KPI) are relevant to the client’s strategy and particular situation, and then support designing the optimal KPIs,” she says. “In addition, we support building personnel evaluation systems in line with the KPIs as well as creating career development programmes for legal professionals and staff. Apart from LegalTech, we advise on various solutions with a view to strengthening the corporate legal function, including improvement of global corporate governance frameworks involving review of the existing delegation of authority and introduction of new policies and people management framework (e.g., allocation of legal resources).”


Both Greenwood and Maeda feel that demand in this area seems developing.

“It may take some time to provide a full range of solutions in Japan. However, many companies increasingly understand the concept of legal operations and recognise the need for establishing its functions.”

- Eri Maeda, EY

“There is no reason for Japan to continue to be an exception,” Maeda says. “As far as legal management solutions’ offerings (e.g., contract life-cycle management, regulatory mapping and entity compliance and governance management) are concerned, it may take some time to provide a full range of solutions in Japan, mainly because of the language barrier. However, many companies increasingly understand the concept of legal operations and recognise the need for establishing its functions.”

Greenwood notes that as more companies and law firms start to use cloud solutions, they understand how these solutions can not only support their teams that are working from home, but how they can manage their work on a global scale. “In my experience as a lawyer, working on complex matters that involve multiple countries, multiple languages, and multiple jurisdictions, I have seen how cloud solutions enable lawyers to work more accurately, faster, and more efficiently,” he says. “Just as music evolved from records to CDs to streaming services, it makes sense that our professional lives will evolve from paper to email to cloud solutions. Future generations who grew up with streaming services are also expected to use the most up-to-date solutions in their professional careers, and the competitive employment market demands will boost the evolution.”




ところで、リーガル・オペレーションとは何だろうか。それは簡単に言えば、法務が自社内の各部門に、クラウド・ベースでのサービスを提供できるようにするソリュ ーションのことだ。その業務範囲は、戦略策定から財務管理、プロジェクト管理など広い範囲にわたり、これによって法務は、各事業部門への戦略的助言に集中できる。

トムソン・ロイターのリーガル・ソリュ ーション・スペシャリストで弁護士の資格を持つトレイシー・グリーンウッドは、リーガル・オペレーションの利点を次のように説明する。「案件を処理するために、法務は様々なソースから情報を集めなければなりません。案件を引き受ける前に、事業部門と何度もやり取りが必要であれば、非常に効率が悪いと言えます。会議を何回も行ったり、いくつものメールスレッドを管理したり、様々なソースから情報を集めたりするよりも、案件に関するすべての情報を単一のインテイク・フォームにまとめた方が便利、という認識を高めるべきでし ょう。また、法務に関する統計を確認できるようにする必要もあります。月末、四半期末、会計年度末の報告書作成には時間がかかり、法務は真夜中まで作成に追われる場合があります。(予算、KPI(主要業績評価指標)等)に関するすべての重要な統計をリアルタイムで入手できれば、マネ ージャーはボタン1つで正確な最新の報告書を作成できます」


「外国と比較すると、日本企業の法務部は、色々な意味で質量ともに発展途上です」と、世界4大コンサルティング会社の1つであるEYの弁護士法人でリーガル・ファンクション・コンサルティング・ディレクターを務める前田絵理氏は述べる。しかし、「多くの企業では、リーガルオペレーシ ョンに力を入れるという需要は全体的に伸びています。これは、日本企業がいわゆるVUCA(変動性、不確実性、複雑性、曖昧性)の時代にあって、M&Aや積極的な世界展開といった海外への事業拡大に直面しているためです」という。



「日本市場においてリーガルオペレ ーションが普及する可能性は大きく、需要も伸びています」と、前田氏は言う。「特に、新型コロナウイルスの世界的流行をきっかけに、多くの企業が印鑑に代えて電子署名システムを導入しています。契約ライフサイクルマネジメント、ナレッジマネジメント、案件管理を含む『リーガルテック』に強い興味を示している企業は多く、AI技術を活用している企業もあります。パンデミックは、日本でリーガル・オペレーションに関する議論が進むきっかけにもなりました。2021年には米国のコーポレート・リ ーガル・オペレーション・コンソーシアムが日本にも支部を設立し、大手日本企業の法務部代表者で構成される別の業界団体は『日本版リーガル・オペレーション』に関する報告書を出しました」






従って、リーガル・オペレーションのサ ービス・プロバイダーがなすべきことは、これがどれほど便利なソリューションであるか認識を深めてもらうことだ。


認識を深めてもらうために複数の段階を経ることを、前田氏は考える。「リーガルテックに関して言えば、私たちはまず、顧客の戦略や状況に照らしてどのKPIが重要かを顧客と検討してから、最適なKPIの設計について助言します。さらに、法律の専門家と従業員を対象とした、KPIに沿 った人事評価制度の構築及びキャリア開発プログラムの策定を支援します。リーガルテックとは別に、既存の権限移譲のレビューを含むグローバル・コーポレートガバナンスの枠組みの改善や、新たな方針及び人材管理の枠組み(法務人材の割当等)の導入といった、様々なソリューションについて、企業の法務機能を強化するという視点から、助言します」



「すべてを網羅したリーガル・オペレーションのサ ービス提供が日本で実現 する の は 、ま だ 先 でし ょうが、多くの日本企業は理解を深め、その必要性 を 認 識 して い ま す。」

- 前田絵理、EY

「日本が例外であり続けなければならない理由はありません。法務管理のサ ービス(契約ライフサイクル・マネジメント、規制のマッピング、コンプライアンス、ガバナンス管理など)に関して言えば、すべてを網羅するソリューションを日本で提供するには、言語の壁が大きく、時間がかかるかもしれません。しかし、多くの企業がリーガルオペレーションの概念についての理解と担当部署設置の必要性の認識を高めつつあります」(前田氏)


業や法律事務所がクラウド・ソリューションを採用し、こうしたソリューションが在宅勤務に役立つことを理解しつつあり、これによって世界規模での業務管理に役立つことも認知されるようになると見ている。「私自身、弁護士として、複数の国、言語、法域が関わる複雑な案件を取り扱っていますが、クラウド・ソリューションを使っていかに弁護士がより正確かつ迅速に、より効率的に仕事を進めることができるかを実感しています。音楽の享受がレコードからCD、そしてストリーミング・サービスへと進化したように、私たちの仕事がペーパーワークから電子メールへ、そしてクラウド・ソリューションへと進化するのは自然な流れです。ストリーミング・サービスで育った次世代の人々も仕事で最新のソリューシ ョンを使うことが求められるでしょうから、競争の激しい雇用市場での需要がその進化を加速させるでしょう」


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