What degree do I need to be a Legal Operations Manager?

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The legal operations manager is also referred to as the legal department operations manager, or LDO Manager. This position has been on the rise during the past decade due to their indispensable role in many corporations. This person usually reports directly to general counsel, while overseeing the operational and managerial aspects of the law department. In doing so, general counsel has more time to devote to leadership, counseling and strategy. But what exactly do LDO managers do? Due to the evolving nature of the profession, there is not one suitable degree, but several. Here is a synopsis of some of the principle positions and applicable degrees:

Financial Management:

Serve as the law department’s primary liaison with the company’s finance and accounting department and may assist the general counsel in communications with the Chief Financial Officer. Applicable degrees: finance, accounting, law, business or MBA.

Vendor Management:

Involves tracking and reporting of vendor expenses, he or she often works with the law department, its leadership, and other departments such as Procurement to select vendors, develop vendor assessment tools, identify and address vendor relationship issues. Applicable degrees: Bachelor or Masters in Operations Management or legal studies.

Human Resources: 

Work with the corporate HR department to ensure compliance with corporate policies and to address specific personnel issues as they arise. Some are also involved in HR functions related to department attorneys, including working with the general counsel to develop succession plans and performance metrics. Applicable degrees: Bachelor in Human Resources, business or MBA.

Systems and Technology: 

Oversees the technological aspects of the law department such as the resources the law department uses, namely for billing, research, archives, discovery, and matter management. Applicable degrees: IT, computer science, law, or business operations management.

Litigation Support: 

Responsible for internal litigation support functions, as well as often engaged in identifying cost-effective means to support litigation discovery processes. Applicable degrees: Bachelor in legal studies, law, or MBA.

Day-to-Day Projects:

Evaluates the legal department, analyzes performance metrics, establishes goals, and develops plans to meet those goals. Because the LDO manager takes on many of the non-legal responsibilities, attorneys and General Counsel are freed up to deal with more substantive legal issues. Applicable degrees: Law, business, finance, business operations management, or MBA.

Therefore, there is no definite requirement as it varies according to the business the hiring company is involved. For example, a job posting for Sempra Energy, that operates natural gas-fired power plants, is seeking a Legal Operations Director in August 2016. Applicants need to have  Bachelor of Arts or Science degree with major course work in business administration, finance, automated systems, or personnel management, or comparable work experience. This posting also stipulates that eight or more years of related law firm or corporate law department experience or equivalent training and/or experience. By that, we take it that a law degree would open the door with the obligatory experience.

This is one profession for this with a law degree (juris doctor), that it can be used without joining a law firm. Many job postings prefer a law degree; second to that would be a Bachelor’s degree in business or finance or an MBA. There are top schools offering online MBA degrees which may enhance your job prospects. However, the occupation of legal operations manager is not an entry-level position. Applicants will require experience within the legal department of a corporation with the objective to transition to a supervisory or managerial role.

For people interested in combining law and business, this could be the optimum profession. It’s a great role for those who love legal, but don’t want the rigorous work-life of a law practice.  Until recently, it required a law degree before you could get anywhere near the legal department at a company. Not anymore.